Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"What makes a monk a 'real' monk?"

Two comments worthy of a post...
The first comment asked me what I meant in my last post by the term 'real' monk.  "What makes a monk a 'real' monk?"  I ought to have avoided using the term all together, since it can seem like a challenge to 'real' monks.  Real monks are those who live the monastic life.  Otherwise I don't know what makes a real monk.  Indeed, many monks spend their entire lives trying to answer that very question.  I believe I can usually spot one when I see one however.  These days I tend to think a real monk is simply a Christian who has given up everything for Christ, one who is totally poor and has been humbled, and totally in love with Jesus Christ.  The man who accounts all as loss in order to know and love God.  St. Therese of Lisieux can be a good example of a real monk.  I also met one a long time ago.  He was a simple Camaldolese lay-brother who gave me his ration of bread for the day - to take with me after I had been turned away from the hermitage by the prior.  He taught me the meaning of 'perfect joy' that day.
The second comment is from Paul Stilwell, which is a quote from Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth...
"Francis of Assisi was gripped in an utterly radical way by the promise of the first beatitude, to the point that he even gave away his garments and let himself be clothed anew by the bishop, the representative of God's fatherly goodness, through which the lilies of the field were clad in robes finer than Solomon's. For Francis, this extreme humility was above all freedom for service, freedom for mission, ultimate trust in God who cares not only for the flowers of the field but specifically for his human children. It was a corrective to the Church of his day, which, through the fuedal system, had lost the freedom and dynamism of missionary outreach. It was the deepest possible openness to Christ, to whom Francis was perfectly configured by the wounds of the stigmata, so perfectly that from then on he truly no longer lived as himself, but as one reborn, totally from and in Christ. For he did not want to found a religious order: He simply wanted to gather the People of God to listen anew to the word--without evading the seriousness of God's call by means of learned commentaries.

By creating the Third Order, though, Francis did accept the distinction between radical commitment and the necessity of living in the world. The point of the Third Order is to accept with humility the task of one's secular profession and its requirements, wherever one happens to be, while directing one's whole life to that deep interior communion with Christ that Francis showed us. "To own goods as if you owned nothing"--to master this inner tension, which is perhaps the more difficult challenge, and, sustained by those pledged to follow Christ radically, truly to live it out ever anew--that is what the Third Orders are for. And they open up for us what this Beatitude can mean for all."

I think St. Francis was a real monk too.
Like I said - I'm no expert, so maybe others would like to add to this? 
Photo:  St. Francis renounces his patrimony.


  1. And...
    I have had the privilege of knowing several very holy and "monastic" individuals...
    one, an elderly grandmother, who came to daily Mass, prayed the Rosary very devoutly, was a widow...her grandson shot his head off in a suicide, a most horrific incident in this parish...her response: in her grief, she just said, "I prayed several rosaries, then I was at peace."
    Another: a man who died a very painful death from cancer...when I visited him in hospital, he looked to me like Jesus on the Cross; his name was Lawrence, and he died on the feast of St. Lawrence. His wife stayed by his side throughout; they, as well, were daily communicants, caretakers of the poor and forgotten, contemplative souls...
    that is what "monastic" means to me...yeah, it's a state in life; but it is lived in countless ways by many hidden souls who by their love, prayer and sacrifice keep this horrid world from falling apart.
    Thanks, Terry.

  2. Maria8:43 PM

    I am nearly certain that you will appreciate this. I was educated, in part, by the Visitandines at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School. Well, this is how this rather and once venerable institution used to be known. They went the way of many convents in the 70's: they stripped themselves of the cloister, discarded the ancient habit and hired secular staff w/ a "headmaster" at the helm. Now, we find them on you tube in the most unseemly presentation that it would make the Saints weep. So, what do they now call themselves? Yes, Georgetown Visitation Monastery. One cannot make this stuff up.

  3. Want real Monks?


    Go to the site, choose Monastery video, and then Save Target As, watch.

    The Father Prior carved this Monastery out of the New Mexico forest with his bare hands.

    Next year he and his Holy Monks will walk five hundred miles from Saint Isidore’s Church in Denver, Colorado, to Saint Mary’s, Kansas as the start of a new pilgrimage.

    This is where I go from time to time to beg for mercy.

    Pray for them.

    Pray for the Holy Father


  4. Anonymous10:43 AM

    May I ask a follow-up?

    You wrote that "These days I tend to think a real monk is simply a Christian who has given up everything for Christ, one who is totally poor and has been humbled, and totally in love with Jesus Christ."

    Is the poverty of a "real monk" referenced here to mean material poverty, or spiritual poverty, or perhaps both?

    I've often wondered if one has to be materially poor so as to be poor in spirit.


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