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Monastery FAQ

What is a monastery? A monastery is a home for monks. Monks are celibate, they live in what is deliberately a counter-cultural environment where they seek God, support each other, and try to help others outside the monastery. When a monk joins a monastery (after a five-year apprenticeship), that monastery becomes his home for life, even if he should live elsewhere for a time.

How dose Korennaya Hermitage help Orthodox Pilgrims? Although we do not host large group retreats, Korennaya Hermitage does have several guest rooms available for pilgrims to make private retreats at our monastery. Some people like to come and spend time alone in silence while others come for spiritual direction from one of the monks. Guests are invited to attend our celebration of the Eucharist, the Divine Liturgy and meals with the monks. Pilgrims often comment on how much they appreciate the environment and the Hermitage springs, as many day visitors bring extra Holy Kursk Root Spring water back o their homes.

What is the difference between a monk and a Priest? When someone enters a male monastic community the first step is that of becoming a MONK. The entire community is made up of both brothers and priests and all of these are MONKS. The term MONK is not synonymous with the word PRIEST. The term MONK refers to the lifestyle of those living within a monastery, and the members of the monastery are made up of both brothers and priests.

What is the difference, then, between a priest and a brother? Both priests and brothers in the monastery are, first of all, MONKS. When someone first comes to the monastery and takes vows as a Benedictine they are called Brother (name). Some of these brothers remain brothers for the rest of their lives while others decide to pursue the priesthood. To become a priest the monk then goes through four years of seminary training, just like any other Catholic priest, and is then ordained to the priesthood. After ordination the monk is then called Father (Name).

When someone enters a religious order do you have to change your first name?
The changing of one's name in religious life is not a requirement unless someone else already has the same name as you in the community. We have some monks who have the same name that they were baptized with but many have changed their name upon entering the monastery, choosing a particular saint as their patron.

Do monks get days off and vacations? This is a very common question that most people ask monks. Monks in simple vows are allowed one week of vacation and monks in final (solemn) vows are allowed two weeks vacation every year. Monks who are in final vows also are allowed to take a day off once a month and are given the use of a car for the day if necessary.

What is a monk? First and foremost, a monk is a human being. He is a human being who, for his own very personal reasons, has decided to devote his life to prayer and serving God.

Why would anyone want to become a monk? A man decides to become a monk because he feels he has been called by God but, beyond that, there is no single one answer to this.

Do monks have any spare time? Being a monk is a full-time job. Plus you don't get weekends off, so it's seven days a week. However monks do get time to themselves. Monks like to walk and read. Some monks like to keep fit by jogging and playing football. Some monks have golf handicaps and enjoy pub lunches. Often monks will travel to other monasteries for holidays or stay with their families for a rest.

What kind of sacrifices does a monk have to make?
This is difficult question to answer. On the surface, a monk gives up his everyday life to follow God. So he no longer watches television, works or goes drinking with his mates. He has decided to live within a monastic community and must obey the rules of the monastery and those of St Benedict as laid down in The Rule of St Benedict, written 1,500 years ago.

Do monks get lonely? Everyone is capable of being lonely. Everyone is capable of feeling down and a bit low. We all have good days and bad days. And if monks were happy all the time, we'd think that a bit strange. However, the monastic community is a family and a monk views his fellow monks as his brothers. Not to mention the one-on-one relationship he has with God! So when a monk is feeling lonely or down or depressed there are plenty of people to turn to.

What is the Jesus Prayer?
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner! - - - Repeat…

Do monks sleep in cells? Yes they do. A monk's own personal room or space is called a cell and this is where he sleeps and reads and studies away from the Church. The cells are contained within the monastery. Benedictine monks like those at Worth have freedom of movement around the monastery and can go out of the monastery with permission. In some monasteries, however, the monk will spend virtually all of his time in his cell.

What do monks do? Monks pray. A monk is in a constant state of prayer, expressed in whatever he's doing. Whether he's sleeping, eating, working or in church, monks never stop worshiping God, because God is in absolutely everything they do. The monastic day is structured with six church services, or offices, which the monk must attend. The first is Matins at dawn, followed by Lauds, then after the morning's work there is a short time for Midday prayer. In this monastery, Mass is in the late afternoon, followed by Vespers in the evening and finally Compline last thing at night. And it's in these services that our monk will give thanks and pray for those most deserving of God's attention at that time. For example the sick and the poor.

Monks also pray through meditation, an inwardly-focused state of stillness primarily done on one's own. They also do sacred reading, where they read the bible in a slow, thoughtful and considered way, absorbing the text and contemplating its true meaning. When Monks aren't in church, praying or meditating, they have a monastery to run. A community of men, religious or otherwise, can't run itself. So there is work to be done in the gardens, in the kitchen, washing clothes, maintaining the church and the monastery, as well as the pastoral work of the parish, the school and looking after visitors. It's very hard work, and requires a tremendous amount of discipline to make sure everything is done.

Being a monk is not easy and every so often the monks need to get away from it all and recharge their batteries. Possibly the greatest sacrifice a monk makes, from an outsider's point of view, is his right to take a wife and have children. He must also refrain from any form of sexual activity if he is to remain pure. Technically monks live in poverty, so they are not permitted unnecessary possessions. You don't see monks driving around in fancy cars for example. Monks don't have money of their own but are given 'pocket money' if they need to leave the monastery.

How dose someone become a monk? But you don't just become a monk. First he becomes a postulant. Postulancy is a trial period where the individual stays in the monastery for 3-6 months, living and working alongside the monks so he can gauge whether monastic life is for him. The last thing a monastery needs is unhappy monks who wish they were doing something else! So this Postulancy period is a great way of making sure that being a monk is really what the man wants in life. If he decides after his Postulancy that he still wants to be a monk, he becomes a Novice and is clothed. This means he is allowed to wear a habit and become more like a monk. His Novitiate may last anywhere from 12 months to 2 years and once it is over the Novice is invited to make his temporary (simple) vows for three years or more. If all goes well, he then makes life long (solemn) vows and some monks go on to be ordained as a Catholic Priest as well. The monk makes three vows. Obedience: living in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, accepting the guidance of the abbot and community. Stability: staying with the community for life. Conversion of Life: poverty and chastity.

How dose someone become a nun? Women who would like to become nuns go through a similar process. However monks and nuns live in apart in separate monasteries. Monks and nuns may have fought their own personal demons in their old lives and see this as a mark of strength which made them realize that they wanted to serve God and become a monk or nun. Or a young person may have grown up knowing that he wanted to be a monk on nun, just as some children grow up wanting to be a fireman or greengrocer. However, most monks and nuns can remember quite clearly the moment they decided that they wanted to devote their lives to God as part of a monastic community. Like most people can remember where they were when they proposed or were proposed to. It's a defining moment. Remember, lots of monks and nuns come from many different professions and backgrounds. They were regular people like you who have opted to make this extraordinary transition to monastic life.

Can monks quite or give up? Occasionally a monk decides that he no longer wants to be a monk and can return to a life outside. If this happens he can never return. Monastic vows are not something which should be or are taken lightly, or an individual can dip in and out of by how their life is going. However, the monastery is never there to hold people against their will. An unhappy monk is not good for the community living and if he gets to a point where he feels he cannot continue he is free to go and seek fulfillment elsewhere, if he receives a dispensation from the Church authorities.

What question are you asked the most?
I am continuously asked questions concerning our Orthodox faith. Who are we? Are we Christians? Do we believe in Jesus? People, whenever having witnessed any of our Holy Services are so moved and intrigued that they ask all kinds of questions concerning our rituals and ceremonies. Orthodoxy is not evangelistic in the Protestant sense of the word. Proselytizing is something that we as Orthodox have never engaged in, and as Orthodox will continue to attract those who want to embrace our faith through the Light of the Truth only. The "fulfillment" "pleroma" that belongs to Orthodoxy only is what brings those outside the fold, inside the body of members of His Church.

What is an appropriate gift for a monk? Those who live in the monastery are asked this question a lot, especially at times when a monk is going to be ordained, making his profession, or celebrating an anniversary. Monks live simple lives and do not normally need anything that is superfluous.

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