I’ve heard it both ways and am still uncertain. I’m an older man and am beginning to hear the first whispers of a Calling to monastic life. Actually, I’ve always been attracted to it and would like to pursue it further. The Calling is growing stronger in me.
Is there an age at which becoming a monk is no longer possible?
Can a man be too old to take vows and enter into religious life in a monastery?
I have created a website for older vocations which lists communities that accept belated vocations. I think you will be happy to discover that many male communities are monastic so you are NOT too old to become a monk!
Benedictine monasteries are independent, so each will have its own standards. If you go to osb.org you’ll find a list of Benedictine monasteries around the world. North American monasteries are listed at osb.org/intl/confed/nacong.html
Many of them have websites that provide information. However, even if they have an age limit, if you find the one that’s right, go ahead and contact them. There are always exceptions. A friend of mine had a deep desire to become a nun in a particular monastery. Even though their stated age limit was 30 and she was 20+ years past that age, she contacted them, got to know them while they got to know her, and will soon finish her novitiate and take vows.
I am exploring a late vocation, as well. Mt. Angel Abbey in Oregon and Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas consider up to 45 or so. I believe Holy Cross Monastery in Beaumont TX does, too. There are likely many others!
Got to ask a question, if someone is called to the life to be a monk or nun or priest etc why is there an age limit, dont think God thinks in those terms so any ages should be acceptable, How can they turn round and say someone is to old
Obviously there must come a point at which someone is too old so the real question is how old is too old. IMHO, 30 (a cut off age referred to in an earlier post) is a ridiculously young cut off age (I’ll admit to a bit of personal bias here). Granted, the older a person is, the more difficult it can sometimes be for them to adapt to seminary / community life - especially if they are significantly older than the others in formation with them. Of course this isn’t always true of everyone. Certainly, having experience in the workforce (as well as in life generally) can be an advantage. Similarly, approaching the issue on a pure cost / benefit basis is also flawed - a priest ordained at 55 may well end up contributing more (in terms of both time and value) than one ordained at 25.Having a set age is, I think, always going to risk arbitrariness and excluding otherwise worthy candidates. Instead, a better approach would be to consider each candidate on their own merits - regardless of age.
The hardest thing about ANY form of monastic life is that you live and work with the same people 24/7. The life can be very difficult for other reasons as well. Some monasteries have found that people past a certain age simply cannot make the transition. What that age is varies from community to community.
Well, I think for nuns at least, it’s quite common for women to enter the convent when they are widowed in the Orthodox world. There are also lots of examples of saintly women religious who entered after their husbands died. I don’t know so much about men. Perhaps this is because women often outlive their spouses or maybe it’s because older women can be more flexible and adaptable to religious life. Anyway, one saintly old monk I’m fond of likes to say, “Anyone can become a Benedictine.” If you can find a community that takes this attitude, you may be in with a chance. Perhaps there could be more flexibility in a smaller community?
I am also an older gentleman who was investigating life as a monk. None of the dioceses in the USA want a man of 62 to enter the seminary (I checked…with each and every one of them – 2 years ago), so I went on a “Come and See” 4-day retreat at the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity in Huntsville, Utah.
This is a Cistercian (a.k.a. “Trappist”) abbey…which is a stricter form of Benedictine spirituality. I grew to love these wonderful monks in the short time I spent with them. And they would have been willing to consider me as a possible postulant, regardless of my age, because the average age at that monastery was 81 (so I was told). The only reason I did not pursue the entry process is that I feel called to the priesthood – a path that would probably not be available to me there. I might enter as a brother monk, and remain that way the rest of my life…which is great, if you feel called to that vocation. I feel called to the priesthood.
Also, I found out that this was the most conservative of all the Cistercian monasteries here in the USA. I saw one thing that was a bit “liberal” – inviting everyone to stand around the altar, holding hands, just before the final prayers before Holy Communion. This is not part of the rubrics of Roman Catholic liturgy…and it blurs the lines between the priest and the laity. But this was really the only thing I saw that was out of line. The rest of their lifestyle and spirituality was truly beautiful and inspiring. They would rise for morning Lauds at 3:00 a.m., and the community would come together in the chapel for prayer several times each day. In between, they would do manual labor in the fields.
If you are seriously thinking about entering the world of a monk, you would do yourself a favor by experiencing life at this abbey! They run these “Come and See” retreats at regular intervals.
There are at least two reasons that religious institutes are unwilling to accept older people with vocations. Firstly, the older one is, the harder it is to be formed. People do get set in their ways and stubborn and accustomed to a certain manner of living. All of this goes against the goal of being conformed to a certain community with customs and standards. You get a young man or woman in their early 20s, they are willing and able to fit in and learn the lifestyle. Secondly, older people tend to have more health problems, and a shorter time before retirement, and this is a burden on religious communities. Many of them depend on the members performing manual labor and that depends on young, able-bodied people being able to help. If you are older then you have higher insurance premiums, medical bills, and you are more likely to spend time sick or injured and not contributing to the work of the community. All of these reasons contribute to a preference for young and healthy postulants for most communities.
I would imagine there are alternatives to formally joining an order. If you volunteer to provide needed service(s), or assist with some activities they would put you to work. You might check on being an Oblate for a monastery.
Also check out becoming a claustral oblate. I believe that it is an ancient form, but is being revived as some older men feel called to monastic life, but for various reasons can’t give up their possessions, or may be too old. They live and work at the monasteries, accept the guidance of the Superior, but don’t take vows and can’t vote. They are people who like the life style–pardon the expression.
I cannot address your desire to become a priest, but suggest that you discuss this with monasteries, but perhaps not first thing. I suspect many/most will say, “We cannot guarantee anything.”
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