The Next Best Thing to Monastic Life

So you wanted to be a monk, or a nun, but God called you to married life. Not to worry! The next best thing to being a monk or nun, is living next to a monastery or convent.

The benefits of living in close proximity to religious are numerous. Imagine, waking up in the morning to the gently tolling bells, calling you to daily Mass in the stone-walled crypt church. Picture yourself visiting the grounds every other weekend to help them clear the land or build a fence. Sit in for Sunday evening Vespers and feel your spirits lifted with the heavenly voices of the nuns.

Okay, so maybe reality is a bit more prosaic than all that, but you get the idea. In seriousness, centering your family”s faith life around a religious community is a beautiful thing. Our family hopes to find a young-but-old religious community to move next to. Perhaps you are interested in the same. What are some of the possibilities?

Benedictines of Clear Creek

These monks are growing by leaps and bounds! They”re Benedictines, which is the ancient monastic order founded by St. Benedict as the Roman Empire crumbled. The story of how this monastery was founded is nothing short of miraculous. They follow the Benedictine Rule, naturally.

These monks are located about an hour and a half east of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The tough part is, they are out in the middle of nowhere, so you have to figure out how to make a living in the boonies. Difficult, but not impossible.

My family considered Tulsa because, in addition to these monks, the new order founded by Mother Miriam of the Lamb, aka Sister Rosalind Moss: the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel”s Hope calls it their home. They are just getting started but are an exciting new order to watch.

Franciscans of the Immaculate

These friars have several communities around the country, are traditional, and are very Marian. We visited their community in Bloomington, Indiana, and were struck by their reverence and the beauty of the land there.

One neat thing about them is that each community seems to have its own unique outreach, whether caretaking the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or running cool camps for fathers and sons, or hosting retreats.

Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles

This is a community of beautiful nuns. You may know them from their popular Christmas album and their new Advent one. They”re in western Missouri (Gower), not too far from St. Joseph and Kansas City.

Several families are moving to live close by them, and they are a traditional order (notice that is a common thread here).

Dominicans of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist

needs no introduction. They”re the powerhouse of God. Their growth can hardly be calculated using known numerical methods–geometric, exponential…who knows!

They”re in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and soon building another one hundred nun priory in my backyard in central Texas. While checking this great order out, also consider the Nashville Dominicans.

The Community of St. John

Also informally known as the Brothers of St. John, though they also have a community of sisters. This community is amazing. Loooong formation, founded by a holy French Dominican priest. Every one of these priests is multi-lingual, incredibly learned, and deeply peaceful and joyful.

They are known for their excellent preaching and also retreats. You can find them in Laredo, Texas, Illinois, and New Jersey.

Carmelites aka the Mystic Monks

They”re known for their great Mystic Monk coffee, but the Carmelites in Wyoming are also a burgeoning religious order, growing as fast as the Benedictines in Oklahoma.

When they”re not busy contemplating the great mysteries of our Lord, the monks are throwing the football around, hiking around the beautiful country, and of course, making great coffee.

What to Consider

When considering moving close to a religious community, ask yourself: what is their charism? Is it compatible with our own? Do they want people to live close by them? How much interaction can we have with them? Daily or weekly Mass? Confession? Retreats? Spiritual direction? Vespers?

Are they a community that seems to do everything in Latin? That”s great if you are quite traditional, but if not perhaps you should consider another one. Does your family have a strong Marian devotion? If so a Marian order could be great for you.

Can you make a living out in the woods where (many of) these communities are? That might mean a long commute, or working remotely, or doing some other type of computer or writing job.

I listed only a handful of communities, ones that we have personally met or corresponded with. There are many others out there. I think that in the next fifty years we will see these young, faithful, dynamic orders growing geometrically, with Catholics beginning to flock around them, as island fortresses in the hostile waters.

If you know of a great community, please tell us about it in the comments!

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