Becoming a Monk

The human person is on a pilgrimage of the heart. The human heart is a desire seeking fulfillment; an emptiness that longs to be filled full; a journey that moves toward rest. O Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our poor heart is without rest, restless till it rest in you! (St Augustine, Confessions I:1). The human person is created in the image of God. The biblical locus for this image, and the source of this unlimited thirst for its Creator-Source, is the human heart. Deep is calling on deep, in the roar of waters (Ps.42:8). The depths of God call out to our depths. The Mystery calls out to the mystery of each person. The Presence first seeks us. Love firstloves us. This love is an absolutely free gift. We cannot earn it; we cannot buy it. Love only asks for love in response.Monks are not unlike other people whose hungering hearts are in search of that Mystery who alone draws them beyond a life that is merely useful, to one that is full of meaning. Neither are monks unlike other Christians who have known the Gospel glance of love which Jesus gave to the man seeking the way to eternal life. Monks are those for whom this desire expresses itself in the language of constant prayer.The monk is the one who has heard the inner call of Christ: “Seeking his workman in the multitude, the Lord cries out…’Is there anyone here who longs for life and desires to see good days?‘” (Rule Prologue,14). The voice of Christ rouses the person to a deeper awareness of human destiny. By answering “Yes!” one chooses to follow Christ under a rule and an abbot (the elected spiritual father of the community) in a stable community. The monastic life, as envisioned in the Rule of St. Benedict, is nourished by a threefold stream: lectio divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture); opus Dei (the communal chanting of prayers), and work.

At every weekday Mass after Communion, the monks and their guests at Mepkin pray this prayer for vocations to the monastic life. The prayer is available at the Abbey story on a card with a photo of the Mepkin community, and it is being distributed by the Abbot and the brothers in many of their letters to family, friends and benefactors. The prayer is also sent to anyone who inquires about a vocation at Mepkin and to those who come to the monastery for a time of vocation discernment. Please join the monks in praying for monastic vocations, especially at Mepkin Abbey.

Prayer for Monastic Vocations

Gracious and loving God
In every generation you call men and women
to leave everything
following Christ into the desert
being of one mind in peace, humulity and simplicity

We come before you now asking for the grace
to be faithful to our vocation
striving to live in the communion of Love which surpasses all other gifts

May men and women of our time
hear the call to live the Gospel in the monastic way
in servce of the Church’s mission
by constantly seeking your face in prayer, work and community life

Remember our Cistercian communities
those aging and those newly born
throughout the world, north and south, east and west

As you have done from the days of our founders
bless us once again
May our brotherhood at Mepkin grow in numbers, in grace and in wisdom
so that we might continue to live for your glory with greaters vigor
and with joy never ending.

Amen.

Composed by Michael Downey

  • Conviction of being called by Jesus to follow Him in the monastic way.
  • Physical, psychological, and spiritual stamina to enter into this way of life with body, mind, and spirit.
  • At least have completed high school. Some years of work experience.
  • Must be a practicing Catholic, preferably with some previous commitment to Church involvement.
  • No obligations toward a wife, children, or parents. No financial debts.

  • Are you willing to enter into a very different Christian way of life which will demand that you partially change your present way of doing things?
  • Can you take directions, corrections, criticisms, and directives from others in authority, such as an abbot, novice director, or the person in charge of your work?
  • Can you work or learn to work at whatever task is assigned, and even find satisfaction in it?
  • Do you value human relationships and are you willing to cultivate them?
  • Can you respond positively to the inevitable confrontations and conflicts that are part of all human relationships, and which call us to personal conversion?
  • Can you spend time in solitude so that it is creative and conducive to growth?
  • Are you drawn to a life of prayer? Are you inclined to more than just “saying prayers” or devoting only moments of the day to prayer? Are you interested in a whole life of continual prayer that permeates every dimension of life?
 When considering a vocation:

As one determines their proper path forward in life, the world tells you to ask yourself: “Who do I want to be? What do I want to do with my life?”  These are valid and important questions.  However the journey in faith refocuses such questioning and presents the believer with potentially disquieting replacements.  “Who is God inviting me to become?  What is God asking me to do with my life?”  Again and again scripture brings us to see God redirecting men and women of faith; asking them to take risks and be uncomfortable for the sake of the kingdom.  Who is God inviting you to become?  How is God asking you to use the wonderful gifts and talents God has given you?

Contact Mepkin’s Vocation Director, Fr. Kevin, for further information. If your interest continues, we would invite you to come and visit Mepkin to get a taste of our life. If you make a commitment to pursue the monastic life, some of the monks will assist you in discerning if you are called to monastic life at Mepkin. This process takes about a year. If the discernment is positive, you may be invited to join the community as a “postulant.”To contact the Vocation Director, Fr. Kevin, use the email form below, call or write to:

Mepkin Abbey
1098 Mepkin Abbey Road
Moncks Corner, SC 29461
phone: 843-761-8509
fax: 843-761-6719

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We recommend the following books to any who are considering a monastic vocation.

The Cistercian Experience

  • Trappist: Living in the Land of Desire, Michael Downey
  • Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life, Paul Wilkes
  • The Cistercian Way, André Louf
  • Monastic Practices, Charles Cummings
  • The Genesee Diary, Henri Nouwen
  • The Orchards of Perseverance: Conversations with Trappist Monks, David D. Perata
  • The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton
  • The Cistercians: The Way of Simplicity, Esther de Waal
  • The Voices of Silence, Frank Bianco
  • The Cistercians: Ideals and Realities, Louis Lekai

Monastic Prayer

  • Contemplative Prayer, Thomas Merton
  • Sacred Reading, Michael Casey
  • Towards God, Michael Casey
  • Tuning into Grace: the Quest for God, André Louf
  • Grace Can Do More, André Louf
  • Music of Silence, David Steindl-Rast
  • Asking the Fathers, Ælred Squire
  • The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, (ed.) Benedicta Ward
  • Thoughts Matter, Mary Margaret Funk
  • Tools Matter, Mary Margaret Funk

The Benedictine Way

  • Seeking God, The Way of St. Benedict, Esther de Waal
  • Living with Contradiction, Esther de Waal
  • The Monastic Journey, Thomas Merton
  • Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris
  • A Monk in the World, Wayne Teasdale

Monastic History and Culture

  • The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, Jean Leclercq
  • Christian Monasticism, David Knowles
  • Lovers of the Place: Monasticism Loose in the Church, Francis Kline
  • Contemplation in a World of Action, Thomas Merton
  • The Monastic Achievement, George Zarnecki
  • Dakota, Kathleen Norris
Trappist DVD Trailer – Mepkin Abbey

Trappist monks trace their history through 1,700 years of Western civilization. In this documentary, the reality of monastic life, as lived at Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery in South Carolina, combines with fascinating images of the past to explore how the humility, contemplation, and simple life of monks fit into the modern world.

Featuring interviews with best-selling authors: Thomas Moore (“Care of the Soul”), Kathleen Norris (“The Cloister Walk”) and Herbert Benson, MD (“The Wellness Book”).

Full-length DVD available in the Abbey Store

"…something entirely different and praiseworthy. "

— Chicago Tribune