'DON'T DOUBT My perception of the monastic life as lived here, in the beginning that the monastic life was for angels..'

an interview with 

Br Aidan Messenger

Fr Aidan.jpg

What were your misconceptions about Religious Life before discerning it?

My main misconception was that it would be a straight and easy road. I looked at a few religious congregations, as well as the Diocese of Portsmouth. I didn’t appreciate that I wasn’t quite ready, for such a commitment, both spiritually and emotionally at the time. I did not consider that I need to develop more fully as a person. Human formation, one of the four pillars of formation, from the papal encyclical, , is an essential aspect of the Christian life, and vital for a balanced Christian life. Without my formative experiences in discerning, I would not be currently a Monk.

Who inspired you on your journey?

One of my main inspirations in discovering my vocation thus far, were three of my Parish Priests, each in succession to each other. They all, each in their own way, showed me the way to try and attain holiness. Never underestimate a holy priest! Being more specific to my monastic vocation, there was a monk of my community (Douai), while serving in the diocese in a parish, came to a pastoral area reconciliation service, wearing his habit. He didn’t say anything especially, but the monastic presence, planting a seed, which has grown thus far.

What was your greatest worry when discerning your vocation?

One of my greatest worries was failure.

One of my greatest worries was failure.

How is the lived reality of your vocation different to how you had perceived it?

My perception of the monastic life as lived here, in the beginning that the monastic life was for angels. I soon discovered that Monks are far from angels, but are men with all their benefits and faults alike. I have experienced how challenging community life can be. The best solution to this problem is, that I have learned never to write anyone off and to be willing to be surprised in a positive way. There are great opportunities when one is willing to learn from another. St Benedict has the wonderful advice chapter 4, , having said, ‘Do not aspire to be called holy before you really are, but first be holy that you may more truly be called so…. treasure chastity, harbour neither hatred nor jealousy of anyone and do nothing out of envy’. (Rule of St Benedict, Chp 4. 62, 64-67)

How has living your vocation brought you joy?

I have experienced much joy. A Benedictine motto is Pax, peace among thorns. The joy that I have experienced in general, has outweighed the negatives. The joy of monastic life, lies in its balance, between the quiet and contemplative prayer, lectio divina and the work that I do here. The balance gives that basis for Christian joy, enabling me to try and be the best Christian I can be, trying each day.

The joy of monastic life, lies in its balance, between the
quiet and contemplative prayer, lectio divina and the
work that I do here.

What have been the highlights of living out your vocation?

My profession in march 2021 was a highlight, as it was a cumulation of my learnings in my novitiate (2020-2021), the hard work of community life, and trying to overcome my own difficulties. It was an event that strengthened by monastic vocation at this time.

What would you say to someone else considering Religious Life?

The words of the former Cistercian Abbot of Mount St Joseph Abbey in Ireland, Dom Eugene Boylan, in his book, , wrote that, ‘You cannot carry tomorrows Cross, with today’s graces’. Whatever the struggles of seeking the will of God, listening is important. It is vital to find a trustworthy person with whom question about vocation can be discussed. A strong life of prayer is important to cultivate, and if there is any interest in the monastic life, visit monasteries and see it lived!

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