Youth ministry was deemed a priority in Church life by the recent Council of Bishops. The adopted "Regulations on Monasteries and Monastics" aims to standardize monastic life and attract novices. What is needed to attract young people to monasticism was discussed with several participants of the Council.
Children Should See the Divinely-Directed Monastic Life
Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
—Your Eminence, tell us about monastic life in the Russian Church Abroad.
—Things are moving ahead, but we also see a certain degree of secularization. Young people are not very eager to enter a monastery. We have few elders who could guide them. Many try to establish monastic communities, but they often fail. Still, thank God, the ones that survive are slowly growing.
Holy Cross Monastery in West Virginia is an example in America. I know that many faithful, and many who seek the faith, love to visit. Almost all of the brethren there are American converts. Holy Trinity Monastery is also growing; the old monks have already passed away, but new ones are gradually coming. The Lord does not abandon His monasteries, someone is always found to labor in them. Young novices come who were baptized as adults, who had not grown up in the Orthodox faith.
—What is needed to get young people to enter monastic life?
—I think that young people should be familiar with monastic life from childhood, to see how monastics pray, to talk to them. Many now learn about monasticism through reading about it, reading about prayer. There is a popular book in the West, The Way of a Pilgrim. Such books, as well as actual accounts of monastic life found on the internet, also help ignite in young people the desire to serve our Lord Jesus Christ and find salvation through a strict monastic way of life.
—So monasteries should not be closed to children or young people?
Of course not. We have monasteries that attract young people, convents for girls and young ladies, and our Jordanville monastery admits boys to live there for weeks at a time, and help the clergymen. Latere you see these boys enroll in seminary, and get ordained. They also bring young people with them. This is very encouraging. “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14), said the Lord.
When the brethren of Valaam Monastery began grumbling against St Antipus, who was revered by the people, he responded: “The people of the world come here as though emerging from hell, while we here behind the monastery walls are among the holy things like in heaven!”
It is especially important for children to see the earnest monastic life.
The Lord Calls the Ones Needed
Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany
—Vladyka, they say that young people are indifferent to monastic life. Why is that?
—Yes, few people now join monasteries because they are distracted by materialism. Today’s world is built on it. But there have always been chosen ones. The Lord calls the ones needed. A person does not determine his calling—he either hinders or helps God’s work in his life.
—What does one need to do to hear God’s voice in his heart?
—Prayer and repentance. We need constant repentance.
—How does one acquire the ability to repent constantly?
—For this, one needs to go to confession more often. For monastics, at least once a week.
—How does one repent in one’s heart, not just admit to some wrongdoing?
—One needs to take all the blame on oneself, to feel guilty before the Lord, in all sins… “I am accursed…”
Read the prayer at the end of Sunday midnight office. In many monasteries they do not perform thi service because of the burden of parish life. But there is a spirit of repentance, void of self-delusion, that is very clearly expressed.
When we sense our condemnation, then we acquire the ability to repent in our hearts.
Also important is to consider what you could have done and how much you haven’t done! How much demands your attention and participation, yet you remain idle! There are many such moments in one’s life, when you feel your own weakness and incompetence.
When you stop blaming others, then you start to feel repentance. Then spiritual life truly begins.
—We know that at St Job of Pochaev Monastery in Munich that you head, and the Convent of St Elizabeth in Buchendorf as well, you permit frequent Communion.
—Yes, you should commune of the Holy Gifts more often, and of course live a Christian life.
The Gospel is the foundation of our life. There is nowhere to go otherwise. This isn’t something external, something to read in your free time. The Gospel must be absorbed fully. This isn’t easy, of course, for all of us. Do not despair, but commit yourself to reading the Gospel.