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To me the "monastic vocation story" is a simply the continuation of "the conversion story", the response of a soul to the patient invitation of Our God and Father to return to the embrace of His Majestic Love and Joy. My own particular version of the timeless story has proceeded in this way:
I was born into a church going family. My father had converted to Catholicism when he married my mother. Although he had not been reared in a religious household, as a young man he had been searching for a deeper meaning. It was important to him that his own children have a foundation of faith, and so my sisters and I went the normal course of parish religious instruction classes, attending Sunday Mass and receiving the Sacraments. These very ordinary but invaluable elements of parish life introduced me to Our Lord and gave me the resources to build a relationship with him.
It seems that God has always been in my thoughts, but as I grew I learned how to "forget" about Him, especially when I wanted to please or satisfy myself with something I didn't think He would approve of. Like a lot of young people in our times, I immersed myself in my own interests, entertainments, and pop culture. I look back now and marvel at His patience. I constantly put Him on the back-burner, yet at the same time, He was always near. In my early 20's, the emptiness of a life dedicated to my own pursuits began to sink in, and I knew Who to call for help. I asked Him to make me His servant.
One might think the answer to such a desire would be peace and consolation. For me, it was the beginning of a time of serious crisis. As I began to really read the Bible and take our faith more seriously, I came to see how impure my life really was, that God was seriously not happy with sin and the type of life I had been leading. No longer feeling I could trust the mores of the larger culture, I developed a painful case of fearfulness and scrupulosity and that caused me quite a bit of suffering. Obviously this was something I had to go through, and out of this situation the Lord provided by bringing me to good Christian counselors and under the guidance of a regular spiritual director, a practice I cannot recommend highly enough. I learned (and am continuing to learn) God's unconditional Love that casts out fear.
Debbie, a friend from my parish, who was interested in becoming a religious, and pointed out to me a flier on our church bulletin board concerning monastery retreats. I had never done anything like that and it sounded like an interesting thing to do, so I called and signed up for a week-end retreat at the Camoldolese Hermitage near Big Sur, CA. It turned out that phone number on the flier was from a national vocations hotline, and so, because I didn't know the difference , I accidently ended up with the vocation retreat rather than the regular one. As a result I was able to stay in the cloister, sit in on their Sunday Chapter and speak with the prior. A happy accident? My first exposure to monasticism was love at first sight. Somehow I felt a fit, and my prayer to the Lord was, "This is for us!" I didn't feel called to the life of a hermit though, and the prior suggested I look into a community of Trappists located fairly close to my own area.
This was the beginning of a longer discernment process. Although attracted to the monastic vocation, I wanted to do whatever the Lord called me to. So with the help of my spiritual director I investigated the possibilities in an active religious order, dated, and visited another monastery. In the end, my heart was in Vina. I entered New Clairvaux Abbey in September, 2005. For me the proven wisdom of the Rule of St. Benedict and the support of community life have worked together to foster spiritual growth in Christ. Although there truly have been ups and downs, suffering and learning, I am happy. Thanks be to the God of all Mercy, Love and Grace. Glory be to Him forever and ever! Amen.