This is sad.
A Cistercian monastery that's existed for almost 900 years in what is now western Germany is closing down for good, due in part to a shortage of monks.Modern times.
The Himmerod Abbey was founded in 1134 by the French abbot Bernard of Clairvaux.
But it had just six resident monks before the closure that was decided this week. That's down from about 30 monks in the 1970s. - Vatican Radio
Catholics online will invariably point to the decline in religious vocations, especially monastic vocations, blaming the changes since Vatican II and especially the liturgical reform. Save the liturgy save the world - save vocations. You think. I'm not so sure. I'm not an expert, but I think the problem has more to do with modern times and affluence than liturgical ritual. Monastic discipline and community life just isn't that attractive to younger people, when you can be just as holy living in a house with a great job as a single person - or a married man. Why, you can even brew your own monastic beer right in your own kitchen. You can travel at will, and do anything you want, and become a saint too.
I'm being a tad facetious, but I'm not the only one who thinks this way. A friend directed me to a Crisis article on the subject of vocations by Br. Justin Hannegan, titled Sacrificing Religious Life On the Altar of Egalitarianism.
What happened to religious vocations? Some commentators blame heterodoxy within American orders. Others blame our glitzy, debauched culture. Still others blame a prevailing spiritual malaise amongst Catholics. But there is another cause for the vocations crisis that commentators fail to recognize: vocations directors, counselors, and authors, despite their best intentions, systematically undermine religious vocations.
Suppose that you are considering religious life. Today’s vocations counselors will advise you to search your heart for a desire to live religious life; and they will tell you that if you don’t find this desire you are probably not called.
The prevailing opinion amongst those who talk and write about discernment is that God calls men and women to religious life by placing an innate desire for religious life in their hearts. If you have no such desire, it is unlikely that you are called.
This advice, although it looks harmless on the surface, ends up thwarting religious vocations. Men and women who prayerfully examine their desires almost never find a strong desire for religious life lodged in the depths of their hearts. Religious life, in itself, is not a desirable good. Religious life is a renunciation. It is a kind of death. It involves turning one’s back on what is humanly good and desirable.
Consider the life of a Trappist. A Trappist monk deprives himself of sleep, deprives himself of food, gives up a wife and children, puts aside the joys of conversation, gives up his personal property, rises at 4:00 in the morning every day to chant interminable psalms in a cold church, loses the opportunity to travel, and even relinquishes his own will. The thought of being a Trappist is not an appealing thought. It instills a kind of dread—the sort of dread that we feel when we contemplate a skull, or when we stand over a precipice, or when we look across a barren landscape. All forms of religious life have this repulsive effect. All forms of religious life, at their very core, consist of three vows—poverty, chastity, and obedience—and each of these vows is repulsive. The vow of poverty means giving up money and property; the vow of chastity means giving up a spouse and children; and the vow of obedience means giving up one’s own will. No one has an innate desire to sever himself from property, family, and his own will. No one has an innate desire to uproot three of life’s greatest goods. Such a desire would be mere perversion. - Read the rest here.
Religious life goes against nature, one sacrifices one's very self to follow Christ. One has an innate desire for union with Christ, and to be sure, there is a universal call to holiness, but religious life is total abnegation. It's different. It really is a higher calling, 'many are called' but few choose to follow. I'm not sure the devil induces many to leave religious life, I think it may be man's concupiscence following legitimate goods, preferring a comfortable life to a difficult one. As Hannegan said:
If we want to revitalize religious life, we need to rethink our methodology. We need to stop telling people to look within their hearts for an innate desire for religious life. They have no such desire. Instead of asking people whether they desire religious life, we should ask them whether they desire salvation—whether they desire to become saints. If sanctity is the goal, then religious life and all its harrowing renunciations begin to make sense. Although religious life is the hardest, most fearsome way to live, it is also the most spiritually secure, most fruitful, and most meritorious. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux tells us that because they renounce property, family, and their own wills, religious “live more purely, they fall more rarely, they rise more speedily, they are aided more powerfully, they live more peacefully, they die more securely, and they are rewarded more abundantly.” - ibidIt is too bad the abbey is closing,
Available for weddings and Mystery Dinner theater parties.
Hotel and spa opening soon.