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Becoming a Monk: Conversatio Morum PDF Print E-mail

Conversatio Morum – monks take a vow of conversion of life

This vow does not have a direct English equivalent, because the Latin can take the meaning of both a conversion of one’s behavior and/or conversion to monastic living. In practice, this vow means both, with an emphasis on the latter.

The taking of the monastic habit has always symbolized the monk’s renunciation of secular living and full belonging to the monastery, and this vow makes the adoption of the rest of the abbey’s stated customs and unstated way of living explicit. It has always included, but is not limited to, what would later be defined as the evangelical counsels of poverty and chastity. Shortly after establishing the vows, St. Benedict clearly outlines that conversion of life includes a monk’s personal poverty, stating: “If he has any possessions, he should either give them to the poor beforehand, or make a formal donation of them to the monastery, without keeping back a single thing for himself, well aware that from that day he will not have even his own body at his disposal” (58:24-25). Similarly, the celibacy for the sake of the kingdom extolled by Jesus in Matthew 19:11-12, St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:7-9, and Pope John Paul II in his more recent and thorough exposition on Christian vocations, The Theology of the Body, has always been an assumed part of monastic life ever since the first cenobitic community.

It is difficult to summarize all the beauties of monastic life in any book, let alone a few short paragraphs. We hope this introduction has given you a window into our way of life, but we would really encourage you to learn more about us by spending some time experiencing the profound depth of this way of life with us as a guest.