One might think that I was almost destined to end up at Belmont Abbey. My oldest brother was a monk in our community, so I was visiting the abbey already as a child. My home parish, Saint Benedict’s, was, at the time, a dependent house of Belmont and was staffed by the monks, as was my high school. In elementary school, I was taught by the Benedictine Sisters from St. Benedict’s Monastery in Bristow, VA, which was originally founded by Belmont Abbey and subsequently given over to the sisters. I was surrounded by Benedictines from the beginning!
However, three things in particular stand out as significant sign posts along my path of discernment. The first is that, when visiting the abbey to see my older brother, my family would attend Vespers, the church’s evening prayer, with the monks. I remember, even as a young boy, being overwhelmed with a sense of profound peace during that time of prayer. I did not know why I felt that way, but the feeling of peace was powerful. Second, the monks impressed me as very talented men who were doing a good work, and were happy with their life. That was very attractive to me, and I wanted to be a part of that good work. Finally, I have always wanted to be a teacher. By the time I reached college, that desire had solidified into a wish to teach on the college level, and Belmont Abbey founded and sponsors Belmont Abbey College. Ironically enough – and it is probably evidence of God’s sense of humor – I have taught in the college full-time only a few of the years I have been in the monastery. I always seemed to get other assignments which took me away from the teaching which I do love. It has been a good lesson that, although prudent planning is important in making decisions in life, one has to be open to the unexpected and unanticipated developments that, in the end, will determine the reality of one’s life.
Finally, as I came to a resolution of a discernment to religious life, the unique characteristics of Benedictine life attracted me. The foundations of the spiritual life in the monastery are the very foundations of Christian life – the Bible and the church’s liturgy. The characteristic Benedictine vow of stability, whereby the monk commits himself to his community and its life, prayer and work for a lifetime, was appealing to me. I am the youngest of six children in a close family, and I knew that, if I was going to lead a happy and healthy life of celibate chastity, I needed the support of a community. Finally, I can see that I am continuing to benefit from the disciplines of monastic life, which open space in one’s life for the possibility of seeking God, which, according to St. Benedict, is the primary sign that one is called to the monastic life.