I just comment on it.
Recently there was a news article published in national newspapers mentioning I had been a Trappist novice. I believe the author wanted to mention it to give me some credibility since she referenced me as someone who writes a lot about monastic life. In reality, my experience, now so long ago, gives me no credibility; neither does the fact I had investigated and experienced other religious orders, such as the Carthusians and Discalced Carmelites, and then lived a private quasi-religious-hermit-pilgrim lifestyle for awhile, with approval and a spiritual director's guidance of course. All of that, though 'religious' in nature, is really just water under the damn and remains an experience akin to basic military training or a strange novitiate for living a single solitary life as a baptized Catholic. I have no degree in religious life - no authority - no nothing.
That said - I do have personal opinions I often toss about - but I do that with marriage and children as well, although I am not qualified to be a marriage counselor any more than I could possibly give good advice regarding religious life.
Yet people keep asking - more so now since the article on Springbank. A reader from the Philippines asked how I knew I didn't have a vocation. Another reader asked about the discernment process, when do you know you are wasting your time and avoiding real life, and so on. One fellow wrote asking about the Trappists and which abbey I would recommend. I can attempt an answer to such questions but it is just based upon my personal experience and opinion.
I suppose because these questions have been on my mind, I woke up this morning thinking, 'you enter a monastery to do the work of God - to seek God alone.' Which means any apostolate must take second place. For example, in the film, The Nun's Story, Mother Emanuel counselled Sr. Luke, "You entered the convent to be a nun, not a nurse." Likewise, a community or monastery must be equipped and able to provide stable formation and spiritual training, as well as protecting and nurturing that desire, which may indeed be a genuine response to an interior call or conviction, within the candidate.
Actually this post came to be because one fellow asked me about the Trappists and which abbey I would recommend. I replied:
I would have to suggest you look at New Melleray, outside of Dubuque, Iowa. It is an old well established abbey with an excellent abbot, Fr. Brendan and a community of very solid and fervent monks. New Melleray possesses a naturalness about their monastic observance - it is very ordinary, the observance - practical and simple - very Trappist, very Nazareth-like. The monks maintain a close spiritual relationship to their Sisters, the Trappistines at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey nearby. Both are mature, healthy communities.As for monastic life, I personally could only recommend stable communities or established houses. There are other very good Benedictine abbeys as well, and of course there is the Carthusians and Camaldolese if one feels called to the solitary life. There are newer orders of Carmelites, but I would focus upon those founded or who have been brought under the umbrella of, the established orders. As for new 'reforms' of established orders I couldn't recommend any more highly than The CFR's or the Franciscans of the Immaculate.
I left because I felt called to 'move on' - simple as that.
If you want to be a diocesan priest, I would recommend my Archdiocesan seminary - it is solid and faithful - although I think most seminaries in the US meet that criteria now. Additionally, there are often small diocesan communities one may look into - such communities have never attracted me - too 'charismatic' or founder-driven for my taste. (Not that there is anything wrong with that. There are just so many now days.) Throughout history I think there have been small communities that have come and gone to provide a way of sanctity for individuals and to serve the needs of the poor in their local areas. Thus proving there is nothing wrong with small diocesan communities.
To answer the question how I knew I did not have a vocation - I found out by trying it. I'm not angry that I 'didn't make it', nor am I jealous of those who did; I don't anguish over it at all - not even on the feast of St. Bruno any longer - I'm very much at peace about my current state in life. I admire those who have persevered in religious life and priesthood. As one old Father once told me: "A true monk is one who perseveres in the monastery until death." I believe that is true - and praiseworthy. Fidelity to the duties of our state in life - no matter what it is - is the key to holiness.
Photo: Oops! Wrong religion... wrong monastery. LOL!