In September 2012 to June 2013, three exceptional young men took part in the Monastic Internship Program, living, worshipping, and working alongside the community for nine months. We asked them to reflect on what they would take away from the experience.
Coming to the Monastery I had this idea that it was going to be rapturous holiness all day long. I found it is a very welcoming environment here with really kind, authentic people, but it isn’t anything magical. I wasn’t hearing Jesus talk in my left ear or seeing visions like Teresa of Avila. I became aware that this is a mundane environment, like every environment.
That got me thinking: “If I keep trying to go to more exalted locations, like maybe Mt. Athos, after spiritual highs, then I’ll probably only end up anxious that I haven’t had one.” I kind of freaked out: “What am I going to do with the rest of my life if I don’t have a Message to share after I leave?” I reached a breaking point: “Well, I could just say, ‘I might not have a plan, but there may be a plan bigger than me, and I’m just going to go with that.’” I don’t have to keep seeking more rarefied experiences until I have known some exalted state of mind in which I’m pure, and then I’ll have a spiritual experience, since I will be free of all the things that are holding me back from living a full life. I can do it right now. I can just decide “I surrender my life to something bigger than me.”
The Monastery is not magical, but it is different. It’s a place where you might find God, or you might not. They give you that space to play. The liturgical life here just says, “Show up; the rest is up to you.” So, I’m in a better position than I was before I came here, despite not having discerned a clear call. You could say that I’ve had a conversion experience.