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Author Topic: how to become an Orthodox monk  (Read 10640 times) Average Rating: 0
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Tikhon.of.Colorado
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« on: April 05, 2010, 11:41:07 PM »

I was just wondering, what is the process, requirements, etc. of becoming a monk?  I assure you, I don't want to myself.  I'm just curious.
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« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2010, 01:22:02 AM »

I was just wondering, what is the process, requirements, etc. of becoming a monk?  I assure you, I don't want to myself.  I'm just curious.

As I understand the process, it involves a series of visits (that gradually become longer in duration) alongside discussions with your parish priest and the superior of the monastery. I'm not an expert on such matters, but that is my extremely concise explanation of the process.
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« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2010, 02:01:19 AM »

Eventually, if frequent visits to a monastery and discussion with its abbot/abbess convince one that one has a monastic calling, then one makes a commitment to go live in said monastery for a period of time.  At that point, one becomes a novice, and remains so while his/her vocation is being tested, both by him/herself and the abbot/abbess and other monks/nuns.  One then becomes a rassophore monk/nun and a microschemos (wearer of the lesser habit).   Some time after that--it may be short or long--one may opt to become a megalischemos monk/nun (wearer of the greater habit).
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« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2010, 06:49:08 AM »

Slavs have the rassophore and microschemos stages separated. One doesn't have his/her name changed yet and is still allowed to leave monastery with no problems. On the other hand megalischemos stage is very seldom. In Poland for example there was only one megalischemos nun sice WWII
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« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2010, 10:41:59 AM »

There are no "requirements." All that is minimally necessary is that you walk on to the property of a monastery, find the abbot, and ask him for his blessing to live there with the intention of becoming a novice. If he gives you his blessing, then it's off to the fields, to the toilets, to the kitchen, etc. for lots and lots of hard work and manual labor. The younger you are, the more hard labor you'll get, to wear down your body, decrease physical temptations, teach you humility, and test your mental and spiritual resolve. Do you really want to be a monk, to die for Christ every day, to experience the martyrdom of asceticism? Or have you read some books and think it would be great to dress like a saint?

When Elder Cleopa left his home as a young teen (14 or 15, I think) and presented himself to the abbot at Sihastria, the abbot gave him a stick and told him to hit a big tree that was outside the monastery walls until he had chopped it down, saying the Jesus Prayer each time he hit it. IIRC, the young boy kept smacking the tree with that stick for 2 or 3 days straight. Once the abbot saw that, he let the boy in to the monastery as a novice. And then promptly sent him to live in a hut up the mountain, tending sheep, fighting off wild animals, birthing lambs, sheering wool, etc.

In the modern world, it's extremely unlikely the abbot would give you his blessing if you just showed up out of the blue. They'd want to know who you are, have you visit a number of times, maybe stay for a couple of months or something like that to see how you do when the novelty wears off. But, basically, everything is 100 percent up to the abbot. He decides if you get to stay, when you become a novice, how long your novitiate will be (could be 6 months or 6 years...often it is around 1 to 3 years), what your job will be, how many prostrations you have to do in your cell, etc. Every monastery is a little different. Some are very different. So becoming a monk nowadays is often about finding the abbot and style of monasticism/community that fits you and to which you want to get "married," i.e. be in obedience to for the rest of your life.
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« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2010, 12:15:30 PM »

I can only talk of my country, but there there are very few requirements: if you are below 18 you need your parent's approval. Above 18, you don't need anything. I know of people that just showed up at the gate of a monastery and stayed there.
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« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2010, 12:55:46 PM »

Quit recently, a fellow-parishioner of mine went off to Calistoga to become a nun.  She'd had that idea in her head for a long time, and was, apparently, just waiting for an opportune moment to act on it.

She prepared for this by visiting several monasteries in California (Greek, OCA, etc.), talked with the abesses, and picked the OCA monastery in Calistoga as the best personal fit for her.  She left here just as Lent was beginning, and from what I hear, she seems to be doing well.  Her abbess is a spiritual daughter of Mother Victory of St. Barbara's Monastery.

Another woman from my parish, much older, went off to a monastery in Greece to become a nun.  The moder Greek practice (as opposed to the Slavic) is to grant the Great Habit after just a few years of wearing the Lesser Habit; technically, she is a schema-nun.  Her abbess is a spiritual daughter of Elder Dionysios, who is a spiritual son of Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra on Athos, a man through whom God has worked at least one really gaudy miracle (the rescue of a woman from the hotel collapse in Kansas City in 1981; said woman is now Sr. Aimiliani).
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« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2010, 07:41:48 PM »

I've always wondered, what is the financial situation of a monk?  Does he give all his belongings to the poor before joining the monastery or are they just kind of kept somewhere?  Is a monk entitled to any money or possessions at all, or is all he owns and needs issued by the monastery?
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« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2010, 11:33:58 AM »

I've always wondered, what is the financial situation of a monk?  Does he give all his belongings to the poor before joining the monastery or are they just kind of kept somewhere?  Is a monk entitled to any money or possessions at all, or is all he owns and needs issued by the monastery?

They give away almost all of their possessions on whatever schedule the abbot advises. I know some who had parents watch over assets until they had finished their novitiate. If they live in a cenobitic monastery, they don't typically own much. Some monasteries give the monks petty cash on occasion, but assets are held in common and necessities are paid for by the monastery, at the discretion of the abbot and/or the monastery's assembly of elders.
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« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2010, 05:21:28 AM »

Just a bit of a side note here, but one of our posters here, zebu, has recently entered a monastery. If someone reading this thread had questions about the process and wanted to speak with someone who had made the journey, I'm sure he would be up for some questions. He  has been a wonderful  source of information about the Orthodox faith for me over the past several years.
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« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2010, 10:39:17 PM »

Are you ever too old to enter a monastery? I've heard both yes and no to this question and have been told it depends on the particular monastery.
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« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2010, 10:55:32 PM »

Are you ever too old to enter a monastery? I've heard both yes and no to this question and have been told it depends on the particular monastery.
I seem to remember Metropolitan Jonah (back when he was abbot of the OCA monastery in Manton, CA) saying something to the effect that he preferred monastic candidates younger than about 25-30, since they generally have less to unlearn.
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« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2010, 11:10:44 PM »

You can enter at any age. I've seen people enter at past 70.
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« Reply #13 on: April 18, 2010, 11:11:22 PM »

I hear that when you become a novice, that you are supposed to take a vow of silence, sometimes only for that time of being the novice.
What things are the novices being tested for and how long do they stay quiet?
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« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2010, 01:40:53 PM »

Are you ever too old to enter a monastery? I've heard both yes and no to this question and have been told it depends on the particular monastery.
I seem to remember Metropolitan Jonah (back when he was abbot of the OCA monastery in Manton, CA) saying something to the effect that he preferred monastic candidates younger than about 25-30, since they generally have less to unlearn.
You can enter at any age. I've seen people enter at past 70.

LOL. Apparently it does vary from monastery to monastery. I wonder if there are some patristic texts or Traditions that addresses this?
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« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2010, 09:18:59 PM »

You can enter at any age. I've seen people enter at past 70.
Christ is Risen!

Yes, there is no upper age limit. Speaking on a quite pragmatic level, monasteries are sometimes grateful to have the financial benefit which comes with the government pensions when elderly people enter monasteries.

http://www.wcax.com/Global/story.asp?S=12331101

NY woman, 92, fulfills her dream of becoming a nun

Associated Press - April 18, 2010 1:15 PM ET

CALVERTON, N.Y. (AP) - A woman who says she's wanted to be a nun her entire life finally got her wish - at 92.

Chrystalla Petropoulou officially became a nun Saturday with the Greek Orthodox Church at a monastery in Calverton, L.I., in Suffolk County.

Petropoulou contributed to the building of the monastery, which was finished in 2005. She lives there with a few other woman, all in their 20s.


Information from: Newsday, http://www.newsday.com
« Last Edit: April 19, 2010, 09:22:11 PM by Irish Hermit » Logged
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« Reply #16 on: April 19, 2010, 10:48:32 PM »

You can enter at any age. I've seen people enter at past 70.
Christ is Risen!

Yes, there is no upper age limit. Speaking on a quite pragmatic level, monasteries are sometimes grateful to have the financial benefit which comes with the government pensions when elderly people enter monasteries.

http://www.wcax.com/Global/story.asp?S=12331101

NY woman, 92, fulfills her dream of becoming a nun

Associated Press - April 18, 2010 1:15 PM ET

CALVERTON, N.Y. (AP) - A woman who says she's wanted to be a nun her entire life finally got her wish - at 92.

Chrystalla Petropoulou officially became a nun Saturday with the Greek Orthodox Church at a monastery in Calverton, L.I., in Suffolk County.

Petropoulou contributed to the building of the monastery, which was finished in 2005. She lives there with a few other woman, all in their 20s.


Information from: Newsday, http://www.newsday.com


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Very interesting.
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« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2010, 11:11:13 PM »

Just a bit of a side note here, but one of our posters here, zebu, has recently entered a monastery.

That's so nice; I wish him the best.  I hope he's remembering us OC.netters in his prayers.   Smiley
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« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2010, 12:53:07 PM »

Most churches have canons that deal with these matters (age, ownership of goods, novitiates, etc.). That is true for the various ancient Patriarchates and also the Patriarchate of Romania. I would be shocked if Russia didn't also have canonical legislation dealing with it.

In the Greek Archdiocese, these things are covered in the ΓΕΝΙΚΟΙ 

ΚΑΝΟΝΙΣΜΟΙ
, which was promulgated by the Holy Eparchial Synod of America and the Holy Synod in Constantinople as Protocol #1204/2004. The relevant section is Article 10, which says, among other things:

a)
 The
 enrollment
 and
 removal
 of
 Novices
 falls
 within
 the
 authority
 of
 the
 Hegumenal
 Council. 

The
 Metropolitan
 is
 informed
 of
 the
 enrollment 
of 
Novices 
by
 the
 Hegumenal Council.

 Novices 
shall 
enter 
into
 the
 Monastery
 after
 the
 completion
 of 
18
 year 
of
 their 
age.

 If
 they 
are 
married, 
the 
consent
 of
 the
 spouse
 shall
 be
 required
 in
 the
 form
 of 
an
 act
 of
 Consent 
signed 
in
 the 
presence
 of
 the 
local
 Metropolitan.

 If
 the
 prospective 
novice 
has 
children
 from
 the
 marriage, 
they
 must
 be 
at 
least
 eighteen
 (18)
 years
 of
 age.


b)
 The 
period
 of
 the
 Novitiate
 before
 tonsuring
 shall 
last 
at 
least 
three
 years.

 According
 to
 the
 Fifth
 Canon
 of
 the
 First‑Second
 (Protodefthera)
 Council,
 the
 duration 
of
 the 
novitiate
 may
 be 
shortened
 under
 certain
 special
 circumstances,
 as 
provided 
by 
the
 Canon. 

Throughout 
the 
duration
 of 
the 
Novitiate,
 the 
Novice
  must
 remain 
and
 live
 within
 the
 Monastery.


c)
 The
 Novice
 retains 
ownership
 of 
his/her 
personal
 possessions
 until 
the 
time
 of 
the
 monastic 
tonsure. 

From
 the 
moment 
of 
the 
tonsure,
 his/her
 personal
 possessions
 become
 the 
property 
of
 the 
Monastery 
in 
which 
he
/she 
is 
enrolled,
 by
 means
 of
 a
 special 
Act
 of
 Transference 
stipulating 
its 
irrevocability.

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« Reply #19 on: April 20, 2010, 03:35:28 PM »

For whatever it's worth, I have always found the ritual of Buddhist Monks entering a monetary to be interesting.

In some traditions the applicant shows up at the front gate and assumes a bowing position on his knees. He is ignored for a very long time, often days. Eventually the gatekeeper monk comes out and asks what he wants. The applicant says he wishes to study under the Master ( Abbot ). He is then told that the Master is not taking any more students.

The applicant is then expected to persist and remain at the gate bowing. Eventually they let him in and after some time, the Master may give him an audience.

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« Reply #20 on: April 20, 2010, 04:45:07 PM »

I've known several people who have entered monasteries in some capacity.  This ranged from trying it out to the definite track to discern tonsure.  It varies with monastery.  Call your bishop, call the abbot/archimandrite/igumen of the monastery you wish to enter.  That is your best bet.  There seems to be no set standard that is across the board.  Your mileage will vary.  It could be as easy as the igumen having people vouch for you and letting you come stay to possibly a more intense period of preparation and many visits and a good bit of time.  But like the standard issue answer on oc.net;  when in doubt talk to you priest, talk to your bishop, in this case talk to both AND the abbot/abbess of the monastery you wish to enter.  As always I don't think any monastery will consider you for entrance into their community if you haven't spend some time there.  Remember their acceptance of you means you have to fit into the community, especially if you are going to be there for a good number of years (monks and nuns do transfer to different monasteries that's why I said "a good number of years").
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« Reply #21 on: April 22, 2010, 03:31:15 AM »

I've been wondering about this too. Can you read books other than the bible? Can you keep a journal? That's really all I care to know. Every "thing" else I own literally fits into a box. But I've kept a journal since I was 13, I think I'd go crazy if I couldn't.

For anyone wondering, I dropped off the face of the earth and a lot of changes happened in my "punk to monk" pursuit, but right now, I'm okay. But a thread on that would be too...journalesque. Thank God for you kind people though and I am so glad places like this still exist.
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« Reply #22 on: October 08, 2010, 06:03:03 PM »

I've known several people who have entered monasteries in some capacity.  This ranged from trying it out to the definite track to discern tonsure.  It varies with monastery.  Call your bishop, call the abbot/archimandrite/igumen of the monastery you wish to enter.  That is your best bet.  There seems to be no set standard that is across the board.  Your mileage will vary.  It could be as easy as the igumen having people vouch for you and letting you come stay to possibly a more intense period of preparation and many visits and a good bit of time.  But like the standard issue answer on oc.net;  when in doubt talk to you priest, talk to your bishop, in this case talk to both AND the abbot/abbess of the monastery you wish to enter.  As always I don't think any monastery will consider you for entrance into their community if you haven't spend some time there.  Remember their acceptance of you means you have to fit into the community, especially if you are going to be there for a good number of years (monks and nuns do transfer to different monasteries that's why I said "a good number of years").
and why would they change monasteries?
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« Reply #23 on: October 09, 2010, 01:37:55 AM »

You may find that many monasteries in the U.S. have age limits. I do not know to what extent this practice is traditional in Orthodox Monasticism because I have heard stories of older men and women entering monasteries much later in life. There is a story of a Greek woman who wanted to be a nun all of her life, but for whatever reason, did not receive the monastic tonsure until the age of 92. There is also the story of St. Seraphim of Vyritsa http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/05/holy-and-venerable-father-seraphim-of.html who was 54 before entering a monastery and went on to take up the Great Schema.

So it seems there is a tradition in Orthodox Monasticism of taking older persons and some of them even became Saints of our Church, but in my journey of exploration into a potential monastic life, I have found that some monasteries here in the states have age limits; one will have a cutoff age of around 40, while another 28. And there may be some practical reasoning for this, for example; most of the monks at a monastery are aging and they need young postulants that are still young enough and able to do much of the work that needs to be done around the place.

Still other monasteries just aren't taking anyone right now because they simply don't have the facilities to keep them.

As for Met. Jonah's old monastery, well, I saw some photographs on facebook from 2009 where several postulants were being tonsured there, and one guy looked to be in his 60's at least, so perhaps that is one that no longer has an age limit.

What i have heard is that HB Met. Jonah says that there are two most opportune times for someone to enter a monastery: when they are young, and again when they are approaching retirement age.

I don't believe Jordanville monastery has an age limit as a friend of mine from my old home parish is now a monk up there, and I'm sure he was in his 50's before joining them. I'm also told that Elder Ephraim's monasteries in Arizona don't have age limits, but he is supposedly controversial somehow, although I don't know what that controversy is, and all of his monasteries are all Greek.
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« Reply #24 on: October 09, 2010, 08:46:23 AM »

I remember the days of old when we used to have regular visits from the Franciscan friars and we would put them up for a night while they traveled the country in their truck.  How do you manage to survive financially, I boldly asked one day.  They said, we have accepted five friars on the government pension and that income is a great help to us.  One pension can support three friars.

I remember in the old Yugoslavia, when our monastery accepted an old lady as a nun.  She brought with her a beautiful herd of goats and we began to experinces cheeses in the trapezna which were first class. 
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