“You could do it. You don’t have to do it to be true to yourself.”

These were the words of the Abbot, to me.  This was vocational discernment on the back patio.  The question was: “Do you think I’m called to be a monk as a lifetime vocation?” But I didn’t ask it. He asked it to himself, hypothetically, as if I was asking it, before we talked, in case I really asked it when we did talk. But before I asked it (and I can’t remember if I was going to ask it or not),  he shared his answer with me:

“You could do it. You don’t have to do it to be true to yourself.”

So really,  I never asked it. So where did that leave me?  I don’t know, but there was a choice of some sorts.   The age-old quandary of free will came to mind. 

Would I live life in the cloister or in the world?  In Zion or Babylon?  In renunciation or in passion?   However, you frame it – I always return to that dichotomy.  Solitude in religious life OR relationship in secular life?  Or, is it something about virtue and vice, restraint and lust?  Probably not. For me, it became a question of freedom and conformity. 

I put it like this:

“The monastery feels like a safe, comfortable, prison.”

The Abbot flipped all three words to their other pole:

“Or, it can be an acid-bath, desert, freedom.”

I would feel un-free in the monastery, always wondering what life would have been like in the world.  Too much would be left unlived, not done, not tasted, or not something.  Something essential at least, would linger forever incomplete were I to choose life in the cloister. 

Why did I choose not to be a monk? 

To embody the thoughts I had in the monastery.

For more on navigating mystical process with Christian contemplative practices, see my course:  The Devotional Practice of Jesus Prayer: An Integral And Unitive Model

Share this: