Thursday, 2 August 2007

How to Choose a Monastery

Someone has sent us a brief email asking us if we can recommend a monastery for him to enter.

No we can’t.

This is a bit like asking someone: ‘Who should I marry?’

There are Elders in the Orthodox Church who are able to say—marry your friend Mary whom you’ve known since you were both 10 years old. Unfortunately, or fortunately, we are not such an Orthodox Elder.

There is great danger in requesting advice on the Internet: we are an anonymous blogger and the person who sent us the email has no idea who we are. As someone once said, ‘On the Internet, no one knows that you’re a dog.’ Bow-wow.

The first questions that should be asked are: Do you attend Church? Do you believe what the Orthodox Church believes? Do you attend the mysteries (sacraments) of the Church? Do you go to confession? Have you done any wrong to anyone? Have you corrected that wrong? And so on. We do not have the answers to these questions for the person who emailed us. We are not clairvoyant.

The first person to ask if you are interested in becoming a monk is your confessor: make a good confession and discuss with your confessor your interest in becoming a monk. Discuss with him your character and whether monasticism is suitable for you. If your confessor thinks that you are suited, discuss your weaknesses and your strengths with him, so that he can help you understand where you could fit in.

Every Orthodox monastery requires a period of novitiate. This is to test whether you are able to become a monk in the particular monastery that you are living in.

Finally, you should pray to God to help your confessor discern what the best thing for you to do is.

May God help you to find your way.

With best wishes—

—Orthodox Monk

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