Monastic life is often stereotyped: the romantic picture of a hooded monk on a hill-top staring into the distance; the peaceful photo of a veiled nun quietly reading in a beautiful garden.
Such moments do happen – occasionally! – and the pace of life in a monastery does tend to be more gentle than outside.
Nuns and monks are real people, each with a very different temperament and background, who live together at very close quarters and who very quickly get to know each other’s idiosyncrasies and failings as well as each other’s virtues. It is said that the most challenging ascetical practice in a monastery is learning to live peaceably with the other members of the community!
Community life requires people to be willing and able to change and to be challenged in all sorts of unexpected ways and therefore the discernment process takes a long time before a life commitment is made.
We welcome enquirers to share our life for a number of months, up to a year, to join our Alongsider programme. Alongsiders include those who wish to experience the monastic life more than a short retreat visit; more like a month or several months - but with the view that it is only for a temporary period of no more than a year. It is our hope that more young people can experience the monastic path within Chrisianity in a way Abbot Patrick of Gethsamane cistercian monastery wrote of in "A Monastic Vision for the 21st Century" . 'a kind of monasticism in the Christian West that would be open to young men and women who after completing their college work, and before deciding on a life situation, would retire to a monastery for (a time) as part of their growth process, much like Hindu and Zen Buddhist monks have done for centuries. Most of these men and women would return to "the world" following their monastic training, which hopefully would deepen their Christian commitment, and would prepare them for the awesome responsibiliites of raising a family in a secular culture with its emphasis on doing and having rather that on being. It was my hope that (a year) in a monastic setting would deepen the person's commitment to Christian principles and develp moral values that would remain with these young men and women for the rest of their lives. I also hoped that some of these ... would decide to make it their life's vocation and enter the monastic way as a permanent commitment.'
Here is a new short film about Arta's journey as an alongsider at Mucknell.
For someone who feels it is a definite monastic vocation they are given time to taste the life as an Alongsider, before plunging in. Some come with the feeling that they may be being called to the monastic way of life; others come because they want to get some grounding in the spiritual life before launching out into their career or family; yet others are simply curious and feel drawn to experience life in a monastery.
If you feel drawn to such a possibility, what should you do?
SLEEP ON IT !!! ~ and if you still feel the attraction, contact the Abbot and arrange to stay for a few days to meet, pray and work with the Community.
If that visit goes well a subsequent visit will normally be arranged. If, after two or three visits, you still feel drawn and the Community feels positive, you will be invited to identify a period when you can be free from work and other responsibilities to come and participate in the life of the monastery. Though the notional period may be from six months to a year, the commitment on both sides will be for a month at a time, renewable after a review each month.
Some basic requirements
- You should be between 20 and 45 years old.
- You should be in robust physical and mental health. The Community must be assured that you can respond to the demands of close community living and contribute in practical ways to the running of the monastery.
- Since life in the monastery pre-supposes an attitude of obedience, you must be able to live with good will towards authority.
- Life in the monastery is celibate and largely spent on site.
- Those who go on to test a vocation to the monastic life need to be free from debt.
If, after a number of months as an Alongsider, you feel that you wish to explore further the possibility of testing a monastic vocation, and the Abbot and Community believe that you may have a monastic vocation, you may ask to become a ‘novice’. The novitiate lasts for between 20 months and four years. If all goes well, you may ask to be elected to Simple Profession for a period of three years ~ after which you may seek election to Solemn [or Life] Vows.
If you would like to take this further please contact Abbot Stuart at:
Mucknell Abbey, Mucknell Farm Lane, Stoulton, Worcs., WR7 4RB
or by emailing: