Fr. Elias On Becoming a Monk
At some point in everyone’s life there should come a point of self-appraisal, where we ask the questions of meaning and purpose. What do I want out of life? What am I really looking for? For me this moment came one summer, around nine years ago. Although at the time I liked my job well enough, and in fact I had a very good job and good coworkers, I realized that I did not find it very fulfilling. I recognized then that I was looking for something more meaningful out of life. There awakened in me an attraction for living a life consecrated to God, and I recognized that I had had this desire at various times during my life, but had allowed other activities and self-doubt to distract me from it. However, in this time of self-appraisal, I came to believe firmly that ultimate fulfillment and happiness can only be found in union with God, and therefore I needed to order my life to seek God. In contrast, I also believed that what the world had to offer apart from God was just empty pleasure, which tended more toward enslavement than anything else. Moreover, I believed that the primary way for me to help other people was by deepening my holiness, a result of the transformation effected in my life by God when I am fully open to God, seek God with my whole heart, and generously give to God all that I have. When this is true, I will be an extension of God, instead of just working by human means; all of my actions will have more effectiveness than years of toil without personal holiness. It is from this foundation, that knowledge I share with other people, words I speak to them, or actions I do on their behalf will be most efficacious.
But there are many ways of life that would match what I have written. How did I find my way to life as a Benedictine monk at Belmont Abbey? For me, it was the result of pursuing a process of discernment involving regular prayer, spiritual direction, and frequent reception of the sacraments. Also very important was making several visits. It is not for nothing that Christ tells his disciples, “Come and see.” There is an insight gained from an actual visit that does not seem to be obtainable in other ways. It was through this whole process that I felt emotionally drawn to Belmont Abbey, excited and enthusiastic about the possibility. As I see it, what distinguishes the monastic life from other choices is the decision to give highest priority to regular prayer and scripture reading, both communal and private, while living with and working with a particular community of men in one place, who share the same commitment. The particular members of a monastic community and its location are thus quite important objects of discernment as well. A vocation to the monastic life is to a specific community and a specific location, another reason why visits are important. Over time, I have been blessed with a growing respect for the spirit and strength of my confreres at Belmont Abbey. As the psalmist says, how good and how pleasant it is, when brethren dwell in unity. For there the Lord gives his blessing, life forever.
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There is an insight gained from an actual visit... It was through this whole process that I felt emotionally drawn to Belmont Abbey, excited and enthusiastic about the possibility.