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: 1) desire, 2) ability, and 3) call.
In discerning a call to the monastic way of life one should feel a longing deep within one's soul to follow Christ in all His purity, poverty, charity and radical commitment to fulfilling the will of our heavenly Father.
Reasonably good physical and mental health are required so as to endure the daily challenges of monastic prayer and work. Even though the fasts and vigils are quite moderate at Mount Angel Abbey, the trial may be found, not in their severity, but in engaging these and all the monastic disciplines with zeal day after day for the rest of one's life. Perhaps the greatest ascetical practice of Benedictine monasticism is to live in community with true charity.
Obedience, along with charity and humility, are values at the heart of the monastic way. These virtues allow us to pray and work in a recollected peace which is the fruit of a personal encounter with Christ. The monk strives to hear the Word of God and respond whole-heartedly. When one hears the call of Christ to "Follow me," one responds as did the Blessed Virgin Mary, "Fiat," "Yes, let it be done unto me according to Thy Word" (St. Luke). A man can finally be certain of his vocation when Christ says "yes" to him through the voice of the Church.
The life of a monk is not for everyone. It is a rigorous life of prayer and work, lived out in community, and it is not without its daily challenge. But for those called to it, the monastic way is a joyful and fulfilling life. If you think that you are ready to give up your "own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord," then please contact the Abbey's Director of Vocations and arrange a visit to Mount Angel Abbey.
Father Odo Recker, OSB
Director of Vocations