White Robed Monks of St. Benedict
What is Monastic Formation?
The word monk derives from the Anglo Saxon word monc, which itself derives from the Vulgate Latin word monacus, the Latin monachus, and the Greek monachos and monos — all of which mean alone, all-one, "the single one."*
Monastic Formation systematically prepares one awaken to the reality that one is already one with God.
The monk does not regard "the ordinary as irrelevant." The monk does regard that "our perception of its depth is undermined by inattention." Hence, "the monk is attentive or 'single minded.' The greatest fault is a divided heart. The monk (is a person) who has gained a heart that (is) all of one piece, a heart ... undriven by the knotted grain of private, unshared meanings and of private, covert intentions."* (*"The Practice of Place: Monasteries and Utopias" Philip Sheldrake in The American Benedictine Review, Vol 53:1, March, 2002, pp 22f.)
May it be remembered, as Karh Barth wrote: And one thing is sure - that even in his hut or cave the hermit will never be free from the most dangerous representative of the world, i.e., himself. Church Dogmatics, Vol. 4.
Step 1. Postulancy: Postulancy lasts no more than one year. The period of time depends upon when one makes an application to formally enter a monastic path and that application is acknowledged and accepted by the monastic community in the person of the abbot or his/her designee. The applicant receives a formal letter of acceptance. This letter includes various tasks that the Postulant is requested to completed by December 31 of the current year. The applicant is encouraged to begin a formal zazen practice. Being a member of the Benedictine Network, the Postulant receives periodic messages on various topics.
Sometime in early January, the Postulant receives a letter formally announcing the begriming of the Novitiate Year on March 15. The Postulant is requested to make a formal request for admission into the monastery and its Novitiate. The Postulant is also requested to email the information regarding the Postulant tasks. The Postulant has seven (7) days within which to file the request and requested documentation.
Step 2. Novitiate: The Postulant is accepted by the monastic community as a most welcomed guest into the Novitiate by means of a formal Letter of Acceptance. The Novice spends the next one to three years under the supervision of a Novice Master. The Novice is free to leave the monastery at any time, and his Superior is free to dismiss one at anytime. The novitiate year is a year of discernment wherein one engages in various tasks and practices to uncover for oneself one's illusions (false perceptions), delusions (false beliefs), and allusions (false stories). Besides a formal zazen practice, the Novice follows a program of study and maintains a journal. The Novice submits required materials when requested. Materials are reviewed by Novice or MasterAbbatial Council or a designee. If materials are in order, the The Novice may request to be admitted into the monastic family by professing temporary Percepts.
Step 3. Juniorate: Junior monks profess, usually on May 1, Precepts for one year which are renewable twice in one year increments at request of Junior or Junior Master. When these Precepts are about to expire, the Junior Monk and the Monastic Community discern whether or not the Junior will make a renewal of these Precepts for yet another year. The practice of the junior monk is to further prefect a zazen practice, sew a rakasu, and complete some written assignments. If during Juniorate the junior monk strives to reach a high degree of human and spiritual maturity, the Monastic Community may accept the Junior's request for «Solemn Precepts».
Step 4: Solemnly Professed: Forever Consecrating himself to God through "Solemn Precepts," the monk manifests in Life the qualities and attributes of the unsuii.
Or, phrased in the words of Fr. Bede Griffiths, OSB. Cam.:
They have come through the test of the desert. They have passed beyond optimism, pessimism, and mysticism. They know that silence is the total manifestation of our whole personality. Being so, they are like clouds and water. They are able to wander across the world as free as a cloud, educating or bringing-out from others Truth. They live in the monastery of the world – in the world and not of it. As water, they have the strength to wash away every mountain that may stand in their way. They do not instruct or train others. They instruct only themselves. Thus, they attain the mind of The Word, not leaning backward or forward in response to people or things. The Word responds to people and things, concealing nothing of its own. Therefore, they are able to deal with people and things without injury to their reality, for the benefit of one and all. In short, they do not possess fame nor are they storehouses of schemes. They do not take over the function of things, nor are they the master of knowledge. They personally realize the infinite to the highest degree and travel in the realm of which there is no sign. They exercise fully what they have received from the Father and Mother and Son without any subjective viewpoint. In one word, they are empty, still and thus able to contain all. They are still and know God. (Ps<46>:10).c.f. Prologue
The real resurrection is the passing beyond the world altogether. It is Jesus' passage from this world to the Father. It was not an event in space and time, but the passage beyond space and time to the eternal, to reality. Jesus passed into reality. That is our starting point. It is into that world that we are invited to enter by meditation. We do not have to wait for physical death, but we can enter now into that eternal world. We have to go beyond the outer appearances of the senses and beyond the concepts of the mind, and open ourselves to the reality of Christ within, the Christ of the resurrection.
c.f. The New Creation in Christ (ISBN 13: 9780872432093)
Peace and Joy!
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