Vocation Stories of Cistercian Monks

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Michigan Sociological Review


Twenty-two Cistercian monks from a suburban Atlanta, Georgia monastery participated in ninety-minute personal interviews. The monks were asked questions about their families, monastic vocations, and prayer lives. They hailed from diverse family backgrounds and life experiences. The main research question that guided this paper is: What influenced these men to choose a monastic vocation? Several consistent themes appeared in the monks' stories about what nurtured their monastic vocations. Some were influenced by the writings of Thomas Merton and other religious authors; others had mystical, religious, and conversion experiences; still others noted the importance of retreats, monastery visits, and spiritual direction; and several had attended seminary and left before ordination, others were former member of religious orders, and one had been a diocesan priest. It was not uncommon for more than one of these themes to appear in the monks ' comments about their vocation stories.


Michigan Sociological Review © 2016 Michigan Sociological Association