Benedictine Vocations Today

This week the quadrennial Congress of Benedictine Abbots concluded in Rome. Not much has filtered back to us in the ranks thus far, other than that the Abbot Primate, Notker Wolf, was re-elected to serve a third term in office.

The Catholic News Service has produced a short video made during the congress. It deals with vocations to the order, highlighting the attraction that tradition has for the young men today who are discerning vocation. Though not a Benedictine in the sense of being a black monk, Michael Casey, a wise Australian monk and spiritual guide from the Trappist Cistercian abbey of Tarrawarra, who also follow the Rule of St Benedict, offers some insightful reflection  on today’s vocation discerners.

Fr Michael baulks at the label “conservative” usually attached to them (among some more barbed ones!). Instead he says that this generation is not as conservative as many make them out to be. He calls them “adventurous”, people who are “looking for something which they weren’t finding in the world that the previous generation constructed”. They have, he says, “gone up into the attic” and “discovered new ways of doing things”, such as Eucharistic devotion, pilgrimages, confession, things which are “very exciting for them, and they think they have discovered them” (said with a wry smile). All this, he says, does not reflect “a kind of grim return to the past … but a very light and joyful discovery that here’s something that’s been lying, gathering the dust for so many years, and it still has a value to us”.

He seems to have read the signs of the times, and he highlights that far from being a generation of “young fogeys”, the discerners of today have made the wonderful discovery that what satisfies their souls and their ideals was to be found all the time in the treasury of the Church’s tradition and teaching. Thank God they have found it; forgive us, Lord, that we have allowed it to be hidden for so long. The vocations prayer of any monastery, indeed any congregation or diocese, should seek not only new vocations to be sent to them, but that they might deserve those vocations.

Almighty God, who called St Benedict from the midst of an inconstant world to hold fast to You in the school of Your service through prayer and work; mercifully grant that we might be worthy to welcome more young men and women to learn, under St Benedict’s instruction, to prefer nothing to the work of God in the service of the Church, that You might be glorified and the world sanctified. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.