Digital Discernment

New approach for those considering monastic life


Discerning a vocation to any state in life can be difficult, especially if you try to do it alone. Discerning a monastic vocation presents a unique challenge. Can I discern this way of life and understand it without spending considerable time at the monastery? This question is especially true for those who have full-time jobs or who may live far away from Conception. Inspired by some friends, we have begun a series of discernment groups to help young men, near and far, come to a more profound knowledge and appreciation for our monastic way of life. These sessions, typically lasting six weeks, explore the richness of monastic life in a community setting. Receiving personal attention, prayerful support, and accountability, the young man moves forward with his discernment, having an opportunity to form a community of brothers who are open to monastic life and who share similar hopes, goals, and struggles.

How does this happen? Sometimes technology can bring some spiritual fruit. We meet through Zoom each week at an agreed-upon time. This model allows us to discuss, teach, and reflect together in a convenient, yet very meaningful way. For example, we had two young men from New Jersey, one from Colorado, and two others from Oklahoma all exploring together, though in different time zones.

Each week, we have a planned topic to teach and then discuss. We share from personal experience, the Rule of St. Benedict, and authors like Fr. Michael Casey and Fr. Cyprian Smith, together exploring principles like monastic identity, prayer, work, silence, and community life. This gives the discerners a glimpse into what it means to be a monk, how we think about it, and how we live it.

The evening session begins with general greetings as everyone logs on, followed by an opening prayer, and then individual prayers of gratitude for the past week. After some icebreaker questions, vocation director Fr. Paul and I will lead a teaching session. For example, I led a discussion on the value and meaning of monastic work, looking at the purpose and dignity of work itself, how it is understood in a monastic setting, some challenges and graces, and then personal accounts of how I’ve learned to work as a monk.

After questions, a series of excerpts from various authors mentioned above deepen the discussion on the topic at hand. We provide guided questions and leave space open for the men to discuss or bring their concerns or experiences. The meetings are open, honest, and confidential within the group. The evening ends with a general prayer of thanksgiving and strength for the week ahead with individual petitions.

The value of this group is found in knowing that one is not alone in his questions, concerns, and searching. Having a community of men that helps us learn where God is working in our lives is such a powerful witness. We all have questions. To have a place to find answers is valuable, and to do so in a trusting community, even more so.

Joining a discernment group is a way to engage with one’s busy schedule. We had three men in the recent discernment group seek to enter the postulancy because they found the Holy Spirit working within them. We invite any young man who wants know more and wants to go deeper in his discernment to contact us about the next group. This journey is challenging to do alone; reach out for the help you want and need. Discernment is about taking action. Come and see.

– Fr. Etienne Huard, OSB
Assistant Vocation Director


If you sense God might be leading you to monastic life, we invite you to visit our Monastic Vocations page for more information.


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