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Is Monasticism for me?

Is Monasticism for me? - St Shenouda Monastery Pimonakhos Articles

Monasticism is not like you see it in movies. It is not like you read of it in books. It cannot be described in words. It can only be experienced and felt. Monasticism is a calling and you cannot walk this path unless you have been invited to it by God. But how does one know if God is calling them?

Many monks and nuns experience a deep longing and a burning desire to live for Christ. This burning desire is a “Holy Fire” and is a calling to the Royal Path. It is very important to kindle this flame and keep it alight in one’s heart. However, there are many youth who experience this “Holy Flame” but once they set foot in the monastery, they feel “choked” and are unable to continue. Therefore, if one feels they are being called to the path of Monasticism, they must visit monasteries and convents, spend several retreat times there and test themselves. Sometimes these “burning” desires can become very strong. It is important to turn these “burnings” into prayers and say: “Dear Lord, my heart longs to consecrate itself to you, but what do YOU want me to do.” In this way, the individual is placing his/her desire before the Lord and at the same time, surrendering to God’s beautiful Will.

When God calls an individual to the life of Monasticism, the calling will be very obvious. Callings rarely come from external sources. For example, it is rare when God will talk on the mouth of another person and tell you to become a monk/nun. Callings usually come from within. They are feelings felt in the heart. If one has monastic intentions, it is important to expose these thoughts to their confession father. One must be honest with their confession father as he will help discern God’s will.

Callings will always come in the right time. God has a time and a plan for everything. When deciding on monasticism or marriage, this decision must not be rushed. Sometimes the devil may rush an individual into the monastic path, even if it is not his calling. Consequently, it is important to test the feelings in one’s heart and discern whether they are from the devil or from God. If one continually prays and continually sticks to their confession father, they cannot fail at detecting God’s voice.

If God calls an individual to the monastic path, He will always create a way amidst all the obstacles. The individual will see and feel that. If God is not calling an individual to the monastic path, there will be many closed doors and no matter what the individual does, these doors will never seem to open. The individual will be able to tell whether God is encouraging this path or not. Our God is not a God of confusion, so the callings He sends will be direct and obvious. In terms of the devil, he will always attack the individual who has monastic intentions. The devil will do anything to stop someone from becoming a monk or nun because Monasticism is a launch against Satan’s kingdom. The devil cannot even stand the black garments that monks and nuns wear. When one is attacked by the devil, there are two options. One can either sit and think about all the thoughts the devil is saying or one can stand up and pray. Standing up to pray is the best solution because it is what the devil fears most. Always remember that you are under the Lord’s protection, no one can touch you and the devil can never win. The devil tries hard for nothing because God will always strengthen His humble children. Parents will always grief the departure of their son/daughter to the life of Monasticism, but one must keep strong against these opposing forces. With time, parents calm down and realise that having a monk/nun in the family is a blessing to the house, the church and the whole world. When parents see that their son/daughter are happy in the monastery, their hearts become happy too.

A youth with monastic intentions must test themselves. As a monk or nun, one must be able to spend several hours in a closed room alone, without getting bored or lukewarm. At the same time, one must be able to socialise with others and be open and flexible. One must be able to wake up at 4am for prayers, without giving in to laziness or sleep. It is important to learn tasbeha and the Coptic language. As a monk or nun, one must pray the seven Agbia prayers with all its psalms. Discipline and silence are very important as well as being able to forgive those who offend. One cannot argue with their superiors at all, but must be totally obedient and submissive. These are all elements of the monastic life and if one struggles to keep up with them, they may not be able to survive the monastic path.

The life of monasticism is a life of prayer and meditation. A monk/nun starts their day with prayer at 4am. They spend 6 hours working, either making icons, woodwork or sewing. At 6pm, all monks/nuns gather together in the church for prayer. This is followed by 6 hours of absolute silence. Monks/nuns live inside the monastery their entire life. Some people feel choked this way and are not able to continue.

One can only join the monastery after finishing their study. It is also preferable that they work and save money for at least a year. They should buy things for themselves, yet if they still feel the need to go to the monastery, then the monastic path should be sought.

One’s desire to join the monastery should be out of pure love for God alone. One should not be going to the monastery to escape from the world or work or failure or fear. The life of Monasticism is a Royal path to which some people are called. Through Monasticism, the monk/nun spends all their life with the Lord, attaining perfection. It is a blessed path and a life of angels.

By: One of the Youth – an interview with a nun