Hello, my brethren and sistren in Christ. As you may know, I am a convert from Roman Catholicism who found the fullness of liturgical life within the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.
What you may not know is that from the age of forteen, I have longed to join a religious order. My parents are both graduates of Gonzaga University (this is where they met) and we have lived near campus for fifteen years.
Through the Jesuits, I have been exposed to religious life from an early age and some of the greatest spiritual guides I've ever encountered have been members of the Society of Jesus.
When I converted to Orthodoxy, I felt the need to pursue the vocation but through an Orthodox monastic community. However, the only Orthodox monastery in my state is Vashon Island, which has only a membership of two monks, and is of the Russion Orthodox Church, a tradition which I am unfamilier with outside of reading The Way of the Pilgrim.
I have to become college educated, this is a must. But if I finish college and am in debt, I do not know of any way I could pay for my student loans while living in a monastery.
Therefore, another option should be considered in order to solve this dilemma.
Saint Martin's is a Benedictine monastery and college in Olympia, Washington.
I am quite fond of the Gregorian mass and am impressed by the Benedictine order's dedication to restore the Catholic Church through the propagation of this ancient liturgy.
Deacon Gabriel of my church and his wife both attended St. Martin's University, before they converted to Orthodoxy from Catholicism, and they reccomended that if I visit Vashon Island and do feel it is right for me, that I should consider joining St. Martin's.
I know this may sound shocking to some that a committed Orthodox Christian would consider joining a Roman Catholic monastery.
However, considering the circumstances, this could be the best option.
I have visited St. Martin's before and I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Gregorian mass and witnessing the communal life of the friars.
St. Martin's is not only a monastery but also a university. If I were accepted to join St. Martin's, my education would be top notch and paid for.
Please don't get me wrong, getting a full ride to college alone is not good reason to join the monastic life. However, this seems like a better option than joining an Orthodox monastery that cannot pay for my education and where I'd have thousands of dollars of college debt with no way of paying for it.
Not only would my education be paid for, but I'd be given the most excellent opportunity to work at a Catholic university.
To quote their website, "Continuing this tradition, the monks of Saint Martin's Abbey, together with their lay colleagues, are involved in a wide variety of work in Saint Martin's College, serving as administrators, teachers, auxiliary personnel, and counselors. Several monks are also actively engaged in pastoral work in archdiocesan parishes and hospitals. Their responsibilities include celebrating the sacraments, preaching, and organizing and conducting parish activities."
If after a few years at the monastery, I realize that this is not what God is calling me for in life, I would petition to be allowed to join another monastery instead, perhaps even an Orthodox monastery, perhaps even Vashon Island.
The Benedictine Order is an ancient monastic tradition and out of all the Roman Catholic orders I know of, this is one of the most "Orthodox" in liturgy, practice, and doctrine.
For a summary of what St. Martin's is like, this is from their website:
"Who we are
The Benedictine Abbey of Saint Martin's, founded in Lacey, Washington in 1895 as a monastery of the American Cassinese Congregation, is a community of Roman Catholic men dedicated to providing Christian witness in the Pacific Northwest through its monastic life of prayer and work, education and service to the Church.
Saint Martin's Abbey fulfills its mission through liturgical prayer and worship, through its support of Saint Martin's College and through its pastoral service to the local Church.
The basic principles and beliefs that guide its communal life are: (1.) prayer, (2.) hospitality, (3.) listening to others, and (4.) service to others particularly through education.
(1.) PRAYER: We seek God especially through our common prayer as well as in private meditation and spiritual reading.
(2.) HOSPITALITY: We seek to provide a welcoming openness to pilgrims and other visitors who come to our monastery seeking a place of prayer and peace.
(3.) LISTENING TO OTHERS: We strive to gently and respectfully listen to the voice of God as conveyed by our fellow monks, campus associates, and visitors.
(4.) SERVICE TO OTHERS PARTICULARLY THROUGH EDUCATION: Sponsorship of Saint Martin's College is our principal activity and we participate in our school in a variety of ways.What we do
Monks seek God and respond to Him through prayer. Prayer makes the monk aware that: God is not only found within ourselves... but also in our daily encounters with others. As men of faith, we recognize the mystery of Christ's coming; and through our monastic prayer, we welcome Him into our lives.
Our prayer life expresses itself most explicitly in community prayer: what St. Benedict calls the "Work of God." We unify all aspects of our daily lives in a humble response to God at morning prayer, midday prayer, Eucharist, and evening prayer. This prayer is filled with praise, adoration, and thanksgiving to God, celebrating the mysteries of His wondrous deeds in Christ Jesus. Communal prayer serves as a springboard for our individual, private prayer. Traditionally, monastic prayer has always been rooted in the Psalms.
It is in community that we express our consciousness of being God's creatures called to the glorious destiny of the Kingdom. At the Eucharist, our community celebrates the deepest dimensions of its existence and purpose, while confessing and experiencing the mystery of faith and hope in Christ.
Our lives are stamped with the mark of pilgrims. We know that at times our prayer will be distracted, but, nonetheless, we continue to "put on the new man," longing to bring the whole world to Christ's life and service. We realize that our prayer is not simply a matter of praying from time to time, alternating with other activities, but rather a matter of directing our whole lives to this end. By our presence at public prayer and our attention to our individual prayer lives, we remind one another of what God has done, proclaim what He is doing, and announce what He will accomplish in the future.
In step with today's profoundly human and radically Christian concerns, the monk takes up his daily work: tasks full of hope and promise, service to his brothers in community, and to the Church and the world at large. A monastic community is not, by its nature, bound to specific endeavors. However, work has always been essential to the lives of monks.
The Rule of Benedict reminds us that our work is not a career or profession but a holy service. Work forms an integral part of our lives. In it, we praise God, help bring creation to completion, and support our community and the needy.
The apostolate of education has for centuries been one principal work of Benedictine communities. Continuing this tradition, the monks of Saint Martin's Abbey, together with their lay colleagues, are involved in a wide variety of work in Saint Martin's College, serving as administrators, teachers, auxiliary personnel, and counselors. Several monks are also actively engaged in pastoral work in archdiocesan parishes and hospitals. Their responsibilities include celebrating the sacraments, preaching, and organizing and conducting parish activities."http://www.stmartin.edu/abbey