We cannot bound into the depths of God at one spring;
if we could we should be shattered, not filled. God draws us on.
– Richard Meux Benson (founder of SSJE)
God Draws Us On
Might God be inviting you to explore this life?
Do you have the courage to find out?
We invite you to read more on this page
about the journey to becoming a Brother.
The Journey to Becoming a Brother
You speak in my heart and say, "Seek my face."
Your face, Lord, will I seek. (Ps 27:8)
Each Brother can tell you about the unique path that led him to the Monastery – the curiosity that sparked within him, the desire that pursued him, the questions that kept him up at night, the challenge that he felt called to answer with his life.
As unique and personal as discovering a monastic vocation is, the process also unfolds over a series of stages that have been established, tested, and honed across the centuries. It takes time to become a Brother, and that is a good thing.
SSJE’s founder, Richard Meux Benson, teaches about the progressive nature of God’s revelation: “We cannot bound into the depths of God at one spring; if we could we should be shattered, not filled. God draws us on.”
Each of us Brothers has known this in our own journey. We each wrestled with the hunger to know upfront what the ultimate answer would be before we even showed up at SSJE. We wondered, Am I meant to be a monk? Can I really do this forever? But this is not how God works – nor how the human heart falls in love – nor how the human body accomplishes incredible feats. You have to climb Everest. “God draws us on.”
Wherever you are in your journey, ask yourself: Could God be drawing me to take the next step? Do you feel brave enough to bound one step further into the depths of God?
Here is a brief outline of the journey to becoming a Brother. You can read more below about taking the first step in the monastic journey: becoming an Inquirer.
- Inquirer – A man expresses interest in our life and begins the conversation. He eventually visits us to learn more about our life and get to know us (and us him). We pray together, eat together, and talk together as we strive to discern God’s call.
- Postulant – Once the inquirer and the community have both discerned that it would be wise to test a vocation here, an arrival date is set. He will live as a postulant for approximately 6 months, participating in our life and praying for further clarity. During the postulancy, SSJE provides room and board, health insurance, coverage for student debt, and a monthly allowance.
- Novice Brother – When a postulant and the community feel ready, a postulant is clothed as a novice, donning the monastic habit and stepping further into our community life and ministry. The novitiate is a time of deep formation and training for ministry, usually lasting two to three years.
- Initially-Professed Brother – The conversation about initial profession begins around two years after a man is clothed as a novice. At initial profession, he takes the vows of Poverty, Celibacy and Obedience for three years and fully enters the community’s decision making and public ministry. This is not the end of the journey, but a decisive milestone along the way.
- Life-Professed Brother – “Welcome home,” we tell a Brother when he professes his life vows, for in that dazzling moment of commitment, he knows and embraces this community as his home. Here he will live and love and serve. What a profound and beautiful culmination of a years-long journey of conversion, a journey that deepens from this moment onward, for the rest of his life.
Learning More About Our Life
If you are reading these pages, then your vocational journey has already begun. We can’t know if this journey will lead you to the Monastery, but God is clearly stirring up something within your heart, or you would not be here. You’re curious. Something has sparked.
So what should I do now?
We hope that this site will be a good place for you to continue your discernment: take some time to read and pray with these pages, learn more about us and our life. Sift your heart: Are you hungry for more?
A good place to start is by exploring our Rule of Life. Listen to our Rule being read by members of our community (something we do every day in our chapter office). Maybe take a few weeks to follow our series, Growing a Rule of Life. Then check back in: Does the flickering flame grow brighter, stronger? Or has it been snuffed out?
In every age the monastic life has been one of total commitment, a radical way of saying “Yes” to God. In our moment, the choice to pursue a monastic calling is more counter-cultural than ever, as this life runs contrary to so many of the values exalted around us. We hope that through the witness of our life, we can share these alternative values beyond the walls of our monastery.
- Instead of isolation or individualism, we commit to life in community.
- Instead of hatred and discrimination, we celebrate the dignity of every person.
- Instead of toxic gender roles, we proclaim wholeness for all.
- Instead of noise and chaos, we embrace silence.
- Instead of chasing money, sex, and power, we profess vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience.
- Instead of heeding the world’s expectations, we follow Jesus.
In our ministries, we encounter daily how hungry people are for alternative paths to the one the world offers. They are hungry for Truth.
For those of us who are called here, this monastery is the place where we can express and experience this Truth, where we can enter into the fullness of life that Jesus desires for us, and where we can grow into the authentic expression of our selves that God created us to be.
Meet the Men of SSJE
Becoming a member of a community is much like falling in love: it's particular, unique, and specific to the individuals involved. We have our quirks and our chemistry, just like any relationship. We invite you to get to know a bit more about us, as individuals and a collective, by reading about our journeys to the Monastery. We look forward to hearing more about you when you're ready to get acquainted.
The Next Step: Becoming an Inquirer
We feel a deep call to this life, but the monastic life is not for everyone. While we pray for each man who expresses an interest in our life, we also pray for the gift of discernment to know who should be encouraged and invited to accept this challenge, and who should be directed to follow God’s prompting elsewhere. We look for signs: a desire to seek God in prayer, a yearning to serve, compatibility with the members of our community, and the resilience and maturity to set out on the path of formation.
If you think that God could be calling you to explore our life further, you probably have a great number of questions. Here are some of the questions we commonly get asked by men curious about our life. Our answers below sketch out some of the norms we anticipate among those who pursue a vocation with us. Are there exceptions? Of course. But this is a good place to start.
Norms for Inquirers
Please read these expectations before filling out the inquiry form
Am I the right age?
We generally accept inquirers between the ages of 22 and 45. For those younger than this, we'd be happy to have a conversation about a potential future vocation. For those older than this, we may make an exception if you're very close to the upper limit, but this is a case-by-case decision; other religious communities in the Episcopal Church may have different age requirements and are worth exploring.
What if I have debt?
If an inquirer is indebted because of academic loans for higher education, SSJE will assume his monthly payments once he becomes, and for as long as he remains, a member of the SSJE community. Inquirers must otherwise be debt-free.
How does my family figure into this?
We strongly encourage Brothers to maintain good relationships with their families. Nevertheless, this is a committed life, embracing limitation for a purpose, and it alters our relationship to and availability for family. This can be a significant consideration. Aging parents can be a particular concern, around which much discernment is needed. We will not consider inquirers with minor children, though those with adult children are welcome to inquire.
What about pets?
This can be another heavy consideration. We don't normally allow postulants to bring pets. The Brothers sometimes have community pets here at the monastery. Inquirers who have pets should consider how to make sure that they have a home and responsible caregiver if they decide to pursue this vocation.
Do I need to be from a certain religious denomination?
While we Brothers have a variety of religious upbringings and backgrounds, we share a commitment to following Jesus. As a community, we are a religious order in the Anglican tradition, whose life of prayer and worship is ordered by The Book of Common Prayer and by the doctrine and discipline of The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada. Our theology is best expressed in our Rule, which can be found on our main website, ssje.org. Eventually, baptism, confirmation, or reception into the Episcopal Church will come as a part of a Brother's formation, if this has not happened prior to arrival.
But I’m not ordained! Is that ok?
That’s fine. A call to ordained ministry and a call to become a monk are understood as distinct vocations. Some men are already ordained before they enter SSJE, and some (though not all) eventually discern a call to Holy Orders after entering. We have many lay Brothers within the community. In the case of lay Brothers, the community may join together in discerning a possible call to ordination. This is a formal process that does not begin until after a Brother makes his life profession.
Do I need to have any special education for this?
Most men enter the community with at least an undergraduate education; if you don't have an undergraduate degree, we look for signs of equivalent professional development and work experience. The field of specialization is not important; Brothers come from a variety of educational backgrounds, including ones that might not seem very related to monasticism or religion. The intentional time of formation during the novitiate begins an ongoing program of directed study intended to equip each new Brother for life and ministry within the Society.
I have struggled with addiction. Does this disqualify me?
We believe in God’s grace and the power of redemption. If an inquirer is an addict, we expect that he will give evidence of sustained sobriety for at least the previous two years and that he be actively engaged in a program of addiction recovery.
Does my romantic status or sexual history matter?
The call of celibacy is a significant consideration, and meaningful time as a single man is needed before testing a monastic vocation. We expect an inquirer to have had a sustained period of at least one year experiencing freedom and fulfillment in living the single life prior to exploring a vocation to monastic celibacy. This applies to marriage or any other romantic or sexual relationship.
Is my sexual orientation an issue?
Men of any sexual orientation are welcome to discern this vocation with us. Our expectation is that an inquirer is on the path toward self-understanding and mature sexual integration, whatever his orientation. We look for a sense of call that includes the gift to freely embrace the celibate life.
What about my gender identity?
SSJE is a monastic community for men. We welcome inquiries regarding discernment for membership from transgender men who have reached a stable and secure gender identity as a man.
Are you ready to take the next step?
If reading these pages, our Rule, and our answers to these questions has encouraged you, if you continue to feel God’s prompting in your heart, then we invite you to answer one more question:
Are you ready to take the next step?
If so – and we hope so – then click on the "Inquiry Form" link below. You’ll be directed to a very brief inquiry form, the chance for you to tell us a bit about yourself.
Once we’ve received your message, Br. Keith, the Vocations Brother, will be in touch with you, and you’ll be invited to access the next page of this site, for Inquirers only.
If you have any questions, please contact us by email via the following address: vocations (at) ssje.org
“God draws us on.” We will be praying for your discernment.