Monasticism is a way of life in which the seeking of the Presence of God the Father becomes a deep personal commitment.
For Christians it is a life long commitment to be a follower and disciple of the Lord Jesus sometimes involving vows of poverty and celibacy.
Those who seek to live such a life might join a religious Order and live with others in community in a monastery or abbey.
Most monastic Orders have a 'way of life' - a set of rules the monastics seek to follow bringing order, purpose and rhythm into everyday life.
The earliest Celtic monasteries were essentially villages built around a house of worship and surrounded by farmland.
The monastics were skilled in farming, husbandry, and brought medical and literary skills to the area. They created fertile fields out of rough land thereby improving the local economy and played an important pastoral role in resolving family and tribal disputes. Thus local chiefs often welcomed those Christians who wished to establish monasteries on their land.
Through improving the quality of life for all around them they were fulfilling the teaching of the Lord Jesus when he told his first disciples -
You are the light of the world....
let your light shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your Father in heaven.
The earliest monastics sought to live away from the business of life and live lives dedicated to prayer and worship. They built monasteries in quiet places where they could live together in peace.
As with all human endeavour there was room for corruption. Some monasteries became lucrative concerns bringing status, comfort and power to their residents and owners. But throughout the history of monasticism there were calls for reform and a rediscovery of the initial aim of the monastic life - to live as disciples of the Lord Jesus together.
Orders such as the Dominicans and Franciscans sought to return to Jesus' teachings and live their lives in simplicity and service to the weary and downtrodden.
Today there is a growing interest in a modern monasticism often called new monasticism the basic principles of which are
a personal commitment to follow the Lord Jesus
commitment to live in community
following a 'rule of life'
These are communities of Christians who are looking for a deeper experience of the Way of the Lord Jesus, who meet regularly for worship and fellowship and who ask the two questions
what does the Lord Jesus ask us to do?
what does he ask us to be?
They also seek to fulfil the monastic call to service and hospitality - reaching out to the weary and downtrodden.
Links to New Monastic Communities