Br. Gregory On Becoming a Monk
As a convert to the Catholic faith, my interest in monastic life ran parallel to my exploration of Catholicism. In fact, after reading Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, I wanted to become both Catholic and a monk. My journey to the Catholic faith had led me to believe that there could be nothing more important for me to do than to seek God with all my being. During the RCIA process I was introduced to The Liturgy of Hours and soon began making time each day to pray the office. I had read about the Desert Fathers praying the Psalms and I found that praying the Psalms kept me centered in Christ throughout the day. I also began attending daily Mass at a local parish, and although I could not yet receive Holy Communion, I found great solace just being near Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Praying the Divine Office and attending daily Mass provided a structure and solid foundation for my life that I had been unable to find elsewhere. However, it was very challenging to keep up this prayer life while working 40 hours a week and attending to my other responsibilities. Not to mention the difficulty of trying to live a live devoted to God with practically no support from family or friends, oftentimes in environments that were hostile to Catholic teaching.
One of the catechists in our RCIA program was an oblate of Belmont Abbey and, seeing that I had a strong leaning toward religious life, invited me to come along for a weekend retreat. I was immediately impressed by the community’s celebration of the Divine Office and Mass, as well the prayerful environment and peace. This was my first encounter with a place that seemed to genuinely nurture the kind of life that I wanted to live. It was very encouraging to spend a few days in the company of other men that were earnestly seeking God. From that first visit I felt a strong attraction to this community that only grew stronger with subsequent visits.
I made several visits to Belmont Abbey during my time in RCIA and continued to do so after coming into full communion with the Church. During these visits I got to know many of the monks in the community and became good friends with the Abbot. The more time I spent at the monastery the more comfortable I became with the community and its prayer life.
In my first few years of being Catholic, after several struggles and trials, the desire to give my life more fully to the service of God and his Church became more intense. It became clear that I would never really be satisfied by anything but God alone, and living a life of prayer and contemplation in community seemed the surest means of seeking God. Monastic life at Belmont Abbey was the obvious choice for my discernment.
I am now half-way through my Novitiate year and I can honestly say that in these past six months of sharing in the life of this community I have experienced God’s love and mercy and have found a deepening of my relationship with Jesus Christ.
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This was my first encounter with a place that seemed to genuinely nurture the kind of life that I wanted to live.