I received a very nice email today. In the I was asked how I narrowed down my decision to two communities, especially when they were not in the same order. I responded to his email. And then I thought that maybe other people would like to know how I got to where I am in my discernment.
With the sheer volume of choices in religious life one truly can feel spoiled for choice. One needs to itemize what is personally important. I itemized the characteristics of cenobitic communities that are important to me in the following manner:
- A Community Loyal to the Church
- Where the full Liturgy of the Hours are prayed most of them in common.
- Where the "Christian Prayer" version of the Liturgy of the Hours is not used.
- No completely external apostolates. eg, some monasteries have parishes many miles from their location.
- A place where people are basically happy.
- A place where liturgy is celebrated worthily.
Some people like me want to pray the entire office, but not everyone wants to pray it in common. One needs to decide if the office in common is important to you.
I freely admit #3 is my prejudice. I have prayed the British translation for many years, and I think the American translation is a wee bit bland.
When I first started looking at monastic life I noticed that some had far flung parishes or other apostolates. This conflicts with my desire to pray the office in common.
I also admit that #5 & #6 are quite subjective.
All of this being said, I realize that every single day can be put in to my carefully constructed box. For instance, one may have duties that take them well outside of the monastery. But these are general guidelines. I know that if I were uncomfortable with the liturgy, life would be difficult. I am also not saying this is how all cenobitic life should be, but communities that have these characteristics in their life are attractive to me.
If there is anybody reading this already in a monastic community, I would enjoy hearing from you on what I wrote. Not that I do not look forward to anyone who chooses to comment.