A monk is a member of a religious order who lives a communal life in a monastery, abbey, or priory under a monastic rule of life (such as the Rule of St. Benedict)
How to become a monk
To become a monk at Downside you need to be a confirmed and practising Catholic, a man over the age of 18, in good mental and physical health, if possible involved in the life of your parish or something similar, unmarried, with no dependents.
A person usually applies after staying in the monastery a few times to consider things with the Vocations’ Director and Abbot. If the application is accepted he is invited to come as a postulant for approximately six months.
Postulants share in the life and work of the novitiate. This helps newcomers and monks get to know each other, and consider what God wants. Postulants attend the community’s prayer and recreation and study some aspects of monastic life and prayer. All is designed to assist the process of discernment.
On completing the postulancy, a man may ask to enter the novitiate. This is the first formal period of training to be a monk. Over the course of a full year, the novice will study the Rule of St Benedict, the Constitutions (Church law) of our Congregation, probably some Latin and monastic history. He will also learn more about prayer and lectio divina, and the liturgy. All studies are tailored to meet individual needs.
The main purpose of the Novitiate is to continue the search for God under the guidance of the Novice Master, an experienced monk, and to discern whether the novice has a vocation to the monastic life in that particular community.
If a novice wishes to commit himself to monastic life, the whole community will consider his application before he can make his Profession. In the first instance this is a temporary commitment, usually for three years. It consists in making the vows of stability, obedience and conversatio morum that define a Benedictine monk.
He will normally begin theological and philosophical study, as well as receive more practical formation in the work of the community. This study aims at a deeper knowledge and understanding of the ways of God, and an understanding of the place of monastic life in the life and mission of the Church.
After three years, a junior may ask to make his Final Profession of monastic vows for life. After solemn vows the monk is a member of the Chapter, and has the right and duty to discuss and vote on issues concerning the community.
Many of our monks are also ordained to the Priesthood; this requires further training, and the Abbot decides about this at the time of Solemn Profession and suitable studies are undertaken.