Beneath the many concerns that occupy our lives, beneath the anxious cares and daily demands that lay claim to our identity, it can happen that we discern a deeper pull, one devoted to searching for something more essential, the mystery the Christian tradition calls “God”.
Should we follow the inner thread of this attraction, we might notice its source seems to come from beyond ourselves. In resting with it, we may sense our own desire swell, making us feel alive and connected to the mystery in a new way. Such an experience might lead us to wonder how God might be drawing us, inviting us to a more explicit following of our heart’s desire. This type of spiritual experience may lead to an attraction to explore a monastic, contemplative life.
Monasteries have always been places where men and women could let their deepest desires be nourished by a shared vision of mutual love and support. Monastic life has been an avenue of transformation, where all of the elements of life combine to give birth to a new self, made in the image of Christ. Such transformation is a life-long process characterized by faith,
discipline and perseverance, in union with one’s brothers and sisters. It calls out what is best in human nature, and leads us to deep peace and inner joy, to “life more abundant” (John 10).
New Skete embodies a unique monastic vision that integrates two separate communities of monks, and nuns into one monastic family. Since our community is Eastern Orthodox, we encourage seekers who are attracted to the spiritual depths of the Christian East, and who are interested in a fresh expression of monastic living that remains rooted in tradition.
Our communities welcome vocational inquiries from men and women who feel a gentle yet sustained pull towards contemplative living and who wonder whether they are called to monastic life.
Perhaps the single most important characteristic for an individual considering monastic life is the desire and willingness to seek God by embracing a life of ongoing change which requires a spirit of flexibility and openness.
In general, candidates for our life should be in good health, and should have finished whatever formal education they might desire before entering the monastery. Candidates should enjoy people and be willing to work closely with a tightly-knit community of brothers and sisters. Our life is radically communal; thus a person attracted to living alone will find our life a challenge.
The first step in exploring our life is to contact one of our vocation directors to arrange an initial visit. Individuals who are interested in our life need to develop a positive relationship with us through several visits. These visits are usually three days to a week in length (depending on individual circumstances). Visiting helps the seeker get to know the community and how we live. These visits provide the opportunity to speak with individual members and begin the process of discerning whether our way of life is a good fit.
The next step is to attend one of our Come and See monastic experience retreats at New Skete. This is a unique opportunity for individuals interested in the monastic life to spend time with us living according to the rhythms of our contemplative life. Seekers have ample opportunity for solitude and prayer, joining us in the choir for services, spending a certain period of time each day in common work, sharing meals with us, and having several spiritual conferences throughout the time on the monastic vocation. These retreats are usually held in October and May. No fee is expected.
When an individual enters our community as a novice, an ongoing process of growth and formation begins that will continue throughout life. The point of this process is to become more closely formed according to the image and example of Jesus Christ who is ultimately the true teacher.
In the novitiate period especially we believe that it is crucial to provide the novice with a serious period of formation, in which he or she is exposed to the richness of monastic tradition. Novices attend classes in monastic spirituality, Church history, liturgy, and Scripture. Candidates follow a syllabus of important readings. These lay the foundation in mature personal development for acquiring a solid monastic identity.
The process of formation continues after the monastic makes profession. In addition to daily personal study and reflection, the community invites guest speakers to address important topics. Provision is made for each monastic to seek spiritual direction on a regular basis.