Vocational inquiries are not uncommon. I receive telephone calls, letters, and emails asking for information about our way of life. It occurred to me today that I ought to write something more than what is found on the sidebar of Vultus Christi. I decided to write this “something more” in the form of a personal letter. A few photos accompany it. Tell me what you think.
If you have come to this “Vocations” page, it is because in your heart you are searching for something more. For a monk, that something more is, more precisely, SOMEONE who is ALL: Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the pearl of great price, He is the treasure hidden in the field, for which one is ready to renounce all else.
Truly Seeking God
When Saint Benedict, in his Rule for Monasteries, reviews the qualities needed in a man who comes to be a monk, he would have us examine, before all else, whether the candidate is truly seeking God (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 58). While this may seem self-evident, it needs to be said clearly and unambiguously. One comes to be a monk because God alone has become, or is becoming, the one and only desire of one’s heart.
The Face of Christ
For a Benedictine, this search for God focuses on the adorable Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ or, if you will, on His Face, for Jesus Christ is the Human Face of God.
Philip saith to him: Lord, shew us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus saith to him: Have I been so long a time with you; and have you not known me? Philip, he that seeth me seeth the Father also. How sayest thou, shew us the Father? Do you not believe, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? (John 14:8-10)
For a Benedictine Adorer of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, this same search leads to the altar, where, concealed in the tabernacle or exposed to our gaze in the monstrance, the Face of Christ, hidden beneath the sacramental veil, is turned toward him, revealing the infinite mercy and loving friendship of His Sacred Heart.
In the Here and Now
Our little monastery is still in its embryonic stage. Should you come to visit us, you will find nothing of what one would expect to find in an established monastery with a numerous community. The beginnings of a monastery require, not only that a man truly seek God, but also that he be willing to seek Him in the midst of something that is still being built, in the midst of uncertainties, surprises, challenges, and seemingly endless opportunities for self-sacrifice.
In the very near future our little monastery will be relocating to a more suitable setting. This transition will require a readiness to let go of much that is familiar, comfortable, and settled. Benedictine stability is, more often than not, purchased at the price of a certain initial mobility. Even Saint Benedict relocated more than once!
Men with a romantic vision of what monastic life ought to be, need not apply. Our search for God unfolds in the humble reality of what is here and now. While we do not lose sight of what may develop later on, in God’s good time, we cannot indulge in idealistic daydreaming. God comes to meet us in the real, not in the cherished ideals that we have nurtured of ourselves and by ourselves.
We do not aspire to become a grand abbey. Our aim is to grow to the size of a large family, that is between fifteen and twenty-five members. A diversity of talents and aptitudes are needed: manual, intellectual, artistic, and technological. If you come to us, be prepared to stretch and be stretched. My own life experience has taught me that monastic obedience often allows a man to discover and develop gifts that he never knew he had.
There are days when our life seems like a series of interruptions. There are always people at the door; Saint Benedict says that they must be welcomed as Christ Himself (cf. Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 53). Things go wrong. Technology fails. In a small community, the horarium (daily time-table) must be adapted and re-adapted to accommodate the human weaknesses of fatigue, illness, and unforeseen demands on time and energy.
This readiness to adapt is integral to the Benedictine vision of things. Saint Benedict would have the Abbot be “discrete and moderate . . . so tempering all things that the strong may have something to strive after, and the weak may not fall back in dismay” (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 64).
Confidence in the Love of Christ
In a community still at its beginnings, the monastic journey does not always flow smoothly. There are bumps in our road. There are spiritual potholes. There are detours and wrong turns. For all of this, I can still say with complete confidence, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).
Where Do You Fit In?
Experience has shown that after one’s mid to late thirties, it is difficult to adapt to monastic life, to submit to the process by which one yields to the demands of life “under a Rule and an Abbot” (Rule of Saint Benedict 1:13). Similarly, men with a previous experience of religious life, find it hard to enter into a new experience with the freshness, sense of wonderment, and discovery that should characterize those taking their first steps in a monastery.
If a man brings with him a cheerful, flexible disposition and the ability to adapt to changes in routine, he will do well with us. If, on the other hand, he is rigid, legalistic, all bound up in personal patterns of piety, and incapable of adapting himself to the exigencies of a new foundation, he will not thrive with us. It goes without saying that anyone with a disposition that is chronically critical, judgmental, or arrogant is unfit for monastic life.
Guests and Friends
There are other things that you should know. While we cherish our silence and enclosure (separation from the outside world) we are welcoming towards all sorts of people, including families; sometimes families have noisy little children. Saint Benedict says that, “guests, who are never lacking in a monastery, [sometimes] arrive at irregular hours” (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 53). Apart from the courtesy and reverence incumbent upon all people of good will in the House of God, we do not expect our guests to conform to our monastic disciplines.
We have a very gentle dog named Hilda, for Saint Hilda of Whitby. If you are not dog-friendly or are easily shocked when a dog acts in a very doggy fashion, you will not be happy among us. My experience is that a dog can help monks to be more human. One of the Desert Fathers said, “Even a dog is better than I, for a dog loves and does not judge.”
I have no desire to lead anyone on by presenting a picture of our way of life that does not correspond to its reality. You can read about some of the characteristic elements of our particular monastic charism below. If, after reading, you want to get to know us first hand, call or email me. My contact information is at the bottom of this page. If you have read this far, you will probably want to continue!
In lumine vultus Iesu,
Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, O.S.B., Prior
IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR LIFE . . . LIFE IN ABUNDANCE
“I came,” says Our Lord Jesus, “that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
— A LIFE THAT IS MONASTIC
“One thing is needful.” (Luke 10:42)
• under the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict and the guidance of the Father of the monastery.
• in the school of the service of the Lord.
• in obedience, the love of silence, and humility.
• in the joy of the Holy Spirit.
— A LIFE THAT IS EUCHARISTIC AND SACERDOTAL
“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15)
“And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.” (John 17:19)
• the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: the sun illuminating each day.
• daily prolonged adoration, on behalf of all priests, before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, close to His Open Heart.
• in reparation for offenses committed against the Most Blessed Sacrament;
and in reparation for indifference and coldness towards Our Lord, Who, humble and silent in the Sacrament of His Love, waits, first of all, for the companionship of his priests.
• in thanksgiving for the mercies that ever flow from the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus.
— A LIFE THAT IS OFFERED AND CONSECRATED
I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
• for the sanctification of priests and the spiritual renewal of the clergy in the whole Church.
• in reparation for the sins that disfigure the Face of Christ the Priest.
• in the sacrificial love that is inseparable from the gift and mystery of the priesthood.
— A LITURGICAL LIFE
“I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; in the presence of the angels I sing your praise.” (Psalm 137:1)
“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 28:2)
“Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God.” (Hebrews 13:15)
• Holy Mass (Usus Antiquior) and the Divine Office celebrated in Latin and Gregorian Chant.
• bringing to the forms of the liturgy a diligence and beauty worthy of the holy mysteries.
— A LIFE IN THE COMPANY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
“When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:26-27)
• following in the footsteps of Saint John the Apostle who, obedient to the word of Jesus crucified, took Mary into his home and into the intimacy of his priestly heart.
• communitarian and personal consecration to the Virgin Mary.
• commemoration of the Mother of God at all the Hours of the Divine Office.
• Holy Rosary daily.
— A LIFE THAT IS ECCLESIAL AND APOSTOLIC
“In the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations.” (Ephesians 3:21)
• heeding the Supreme Pontiff, our Holy Father, the Successor of Peter.
• in filial obedience to our Bishop.
• in generous service of the clergy by means of hospitality, days of silence and adoration, retreats, and spiritual direction.
• promotion of the movement for Spiritual Motherhood benefiting priests.
— A LIFE OF WORK
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord, and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.” (1 Corinthians 11:4-7)
• that is not only a necessity of human existence, but also a participation in the work of God the Creator of the universe and the Providence of His children.
• hospitality to clergy and seminarians.
• spiritual care and support of the clergy.
• manual and intellectual work, according to the abilities and gifts of each one.
— A LIFE THAT INCORPORATES DIVERSE EXPRESSIONS WITHIN A SINGLE FAMILY
“If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.'” (1 Corinthians 11:19-21).
• choir monks dedicated to the integral service of the liturgy and, normally, destined for the priesthood
• monks not destined for the priesthood who, imitating Saint Joseph, dedicate themselves to the ceaseless prayer of the heart in the daily tasks entrusted to them
• Sacerdotal and Diaconal Oblates of the monastery: diocesan clergy living its charism and sustained by the monastic community in the midst of their pastoral labors.
• laymen, single and married: secular Oblates of the monastery.
• women Oblates dedicated as Spiritual Mothers for Priests, following the initiative of the letter of 7 December 2007 of His Eminence, Claudio Cardinal Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation Pro Clericis.
— ADORERS OF THE EUCHARISTIC FACE OF JESUS
“You have said, ‘Seek my Face.’ My heart says to You, ‘Your Face, O Lord, do I seek.’ Hide not your Face from me.” (Psalm 26:8-9).
“It is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of the darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
• all participate daily in adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the monastery, or for priest, deacon, and lay oblates, in their parishes.
— MONASTIC FORMATION
Postulancy: 5 months
Novitiate: 18 months
Temporary Vows: 3 years
Monastic Consecration after 5 years
• between 20 and 30 years of age; exceptions on an individual basis for men over 30.
• successful completion of a course of study or mastery of a manual skill.
• unmarried and living a chaste life.
• not belonging to another Religious Institute.
• free of debt.
• not trying to evade the challenges and responsibilities of life in the world.
• without a criminal record.
• free of incurable or contagious diseases.
• not responsible for the support of aged parents.
• free of addictions to tobacco, alcohol, stimulants.
You must be able to present:
• a letter of recommendation from your Parish Priest or Chaplain.
• certificate of Baptism and Confirmation.
• complete medical report.
• attestation of studies completed.
• personal documents, i.e. identity card, Social Security, etc.
Once accepted, postulants are required to furnish a sum of money sufficient to cover any unusual expenses that may arise during the postulancy, and sufficient to pay travel expenses should one be dismissed by the Prior, or choose not to pursue life in our community.
MONASTERY OF OUR LADY OF THE CENACLE , O.S.B.
1132 East 21st Street
Tulsa, OK 74114