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 6559 State Highway M26, Eagle Harbor, MI 49950 | skete@societystjohn.com | ©2018 by Society of St. John, Inc.

Vocations

 

We came to the shore of Lake Superior at Eagle Harbor in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s Keweenaw County in late Summer of 1983 and began the struggle of building this monastery. The unlikely work of picking wild berries and making jam we undertook during our first summer proved the seed of larger things. Our jam shop and bakery, Jampot, has become one of the best-known businesses in our area and now more than provides for our physical needs.

 

A monastery is more than buildings, business, or outreach. Important as these things are to its life and growth, they do not constitute its essence. Nor can it be reduced to a concept, schedule, program, or rule of life; it cannot exist as an abstraction. Monasticism must be lived, incarnated in the daily life and work of a specific community of real men. It is the community, not the buildings or the concept, that constitutes the monastery.

 

The Lord has blessed us with growth in this, as well. We pray the growth continue. We invite Catholic men of any Rite — and other sincere men willing to embrace our Faith and Rite — who are free of canonical impediment, to explore the possibility of life in this holy monastery.

We are building a monastery on the shore of Lake Superior.

 

 This is not a matter of pride for us; we see in it no particular distinction. In truth, God is the Builder; we are but His unworthy instruments. Called more than twenty-five years ago to the task of founding a monastery dedicated to building up God's Kingdom through the arts, we joyfully persevere in the struggle, mindful of the long road ahead and grateful for the many consolations and graces the Lord continues to provide. Truly, He has prospered the work of our hands.

 

Among the greatest of the Lord’s many blessings, we count the way of life He has handed on to us through the holy Fathers of the Christian East, the Brotherhood that incarnates the way of life in this particular place, and the Byzantine liturgical tradition that so powerfully manifests God’s presence in our midst.

 

Prayer is the essence of monastic life; and liturgical prayer, the Divine Liturgy and Divine Office, is the most important function of our monastery. The four or five hours per day we normally spend praying together in choir constitute our noblest endeavor, our greatest benefit to the world. They also represent our closest connection with one another and a deep intimacy with God. Lifting our voices together in centuries-old hymns, chanting the Lord’s praise and begging His mercy on this sinful and weary world of ours, we know we are heard, indeed, that He is there among us (Mt. 18:19-20.

 

Having experienced God’s presence in the liturgical assembly, our personal prayer and meditation become more fruitful; we more readily turn to Him in our hearts and open ourselves for His action upon us. This is a long-tested aid in attaining to the principal purpose of monastic life: the sanctification of the monks themselves. We cannot bring this about ourselves, rather, God affects it in us. Our part is to love Him totally and to allow Him to consume our lives.

 

To that end, we practice the various renunciations traditional to religious life. Commonly called the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience — to which monks add a vow of stability — these Evangelical Counsels seek to eliminate the many distractions and obstacles that plague us in the world and impede our openness to God. Setting aside acquisitiveness, sexual desire, self-will, and wanderlust, we are free to devote ourselves to God. Emptying ourselves of worldly concerns, we make room for the Divine.

 

While not rejecting many of the benefits of modern technology, we live simply and closely. We possess no personal property or space, sharing a dormitory and bathing area in common, as well as all other sectors of the monastery. We work together at our shop for the support of the Brethren, and spend as much time in personal prayer and meditation as our schedule allows. We also make time for some recreation each week and for developing the various artistic talents the Lord has bestowed upon us for the service of His glory.

 

In short, we live the busy life of pioneers and trust in the special graces the Lord grants to monastic founders. We are supported in the struggle by the close family spirit that animates our Brotherhood and by the knowledge that each of us is contributing in a decisive way toward building a thing of beauty for God. In this great work, we find peace, contentment, and abundant joy. We long to share.

 

The Lord has called each of us to this holy task in diverse ways. We trust He is also calling others. Perhaps you! We invite you to pray and seek more information. May our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ be a light for your path.

Monasticism

 

The monk is one who has come to believe that the monastic way of life is pleasing to God. He has this on good authority. The various monastic renunciations and observances are well attested in scripture (cf. Mt. 19:12; Mk. 12:25; Lk. 5:35; 14:33; 18:1) and have been followed by many among the Christian faithful from the very beginning. Indeed, the descriptions of the first Christian community given in The Acts of the Apostles (2:42; 4:32-35) with few changes in wording could easily apply to many observant monastic communities of today.

 

Monastic life is not just another career choice, a way of getting ahead in the world and of providing for a secure future. In reality, it is not a choice at all, but an act of obedience. It is a response to God’s call to abandon even the good things of the world and to follow Him alone — a radical act for which He has promised great rewards (cf. Mt. 19:27-29). This commitment is often summed up in one word: conversion, a turning back to God.

 

Turning away from sin, from his self will, from his personal pleasures, the monk undertakes penance for his own failings and those of others, invokes the Lord’s mercy upon himself and upon this whole weary world of ours, and strives to conform his own will to that of God.

 

The endeavor is not altogether altruistic; while motivated by the love of God, the monk knows that conformance to the Divine will bring him true peace, and he remains ever mindful of the Lord’s promise of eternal life. The call is a grace in itself; it is not something the monk has earned or deserved, nor can he ever be worthy of it by his own efforts. Only by his ongoing response to God’s continuing blessings can he possibly hope to live out its demands. His vocation is not of his own doing; it is purely and simply a gift. Nonetheless, the undertaking does entail many serious difficulties.

 

The monk is comforted to know that the Lord, in assigning a task, always provides the necessary graces for its accomplishment. Among them he counts especially the traditions handed on by those who have gone before him.

 

Authentic monasticism is not something we improvise or create for ourselves; rather, we receive it from others, who have, in turn, received from still others who have had it from others before them. It has always been thus.

 

 

Ascetic Reflections

 

In his foreword to the spiritual classic Unseen Warfare by Lorenzo Scupoli, Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain writes:

 

The arena, the field of battle, the site where the fight actually takes place is our own heart and all our inner man. The time of battle is our whole life.  With what weapons are warriors armed for this unseen warfare? Listen. Their helmet is total disbelief in themselves and complete absence of self-reliance; their shield and coat of mail — a bold faith in God and a firm trust in Him; their armour and cuirass — instruction in the passion of Christ; their belt — cutting off bodily passions; their boots — humility and a constant sense and recognition of their powerlessness; their spurs — patience in temptations and repudiation of negligence; their sword, which they hold ever in one hand, is prayer whether with the lips or within — in the heart; their three-pronged spear, which they hold in the other hand, is a firm resolve in no way to consent to the passion which assails them, but to repulse it with anger and wholehearted hatred; their pay and food, sustaining them in their resistance to the enemy, is frequent communion with God, both through the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, and inwardly; the clear and cloudless atmosphere, which enables them to see the enemy from afar, is a constant exercising of the mind in the knowledge of what is right in the eyes of the Lord, and a constant exercising of the will in desiring only what is pleasing to God, peace and quiet of the heart.

 

Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mt 10:37-39)

 

Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light. (Mt 11:28-30)

 

To the rock too high for me,
lead me!
For you are my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
(Ps. 60:3b-4; Ps. 61:4)

 

In God alone there is rest for my soul,
from him comes my safety;
with him alone for my rock, my safety,
my fortress, I can never fall.
(Ps. 61:2-3; Ps. 62:1-2)

 

Experience Monastery Life

 

 

The sketchy information contained here cannot, of course, give a full picture of our life. In particular, words are inadequate for conveying the power and beauty of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy and choral Office that illuminate our spiritual life. We do hope, however, that it will move you to find out more.

 

You may request printed information by email, or for various articles and photos illustrating some of the many aspects of our life and spiritual outlook, see our Vocations Newsletter and other sections of the website.

But the very best way to learn about our monastery and way of life is to “come and see”. A visit here will allow you to observe many aspects of our life at close hand and to experience the round of liturgical prayer that frames and distinguishes our life.

 

For men interested in the possibility of a vocation to the monastic life, we offer discernment retreats of up to a week in length throughout the year. Please write or email us with some information about yourself and details regarding scheduling a visit. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

 

One enters the life of our monastic family by degrees. A man interested in our life comes to us first as an observer. Retreats here of several days to a week provide the opportunity of becoming acquainted with the life, prayer, and work of the monastery .

 

Suitable applicants may come back for an extended stay as candidates for a month or longer. Residing in the guesthouse, the candidate lives closely with the community, shares in its work, and participates in its worship. If signs of a vocation are mutually discernable, he may be admitted to the monastery as a postulant, for a year's further discernment.

 

When his call has been determined with a large degree of certainty, he may begin monastic life by his investiture as a novice. While he is not yet vowed to the life, the time for questioning has passed. He commits himself to pursue the monastic calling with all vigor through the coming three years of his formation. The time having passed in a satisfactory manner, he may bind himself to the monastery for life by means of monastic consecration.

 

Thus, a man would normally live with us four years before becoming a permanent member of the family. But these various degrees of monastic life have to do only with commitment and responsibility. The benefits of the life are shared equally by all.

 

We pray the Lord send many men to share the abundant blessings and love of our monastery.

Holy Transfiguration Skete

EST. | 1983