As with most everything, there are positives and negatives on why we do what we do, and monasticism is no exception. The primary reason a man or woman becomes a monastic is that God is calling them to this life, responding with "Yes, Lord!" and pursuing what is truly a "love affair" that transcends our whole being. Like marriage it is a form of martyrdom that is driven by an all-consuming love for the other.
Often we are asked, "Why aren't there more women interested in monasticism?" or, more specifically, "Why don't more women join you?" There are many answers to these questions. What follows are some of the major reasons for this.
American culture is so ego-centric with virtually every aspect of life centering on the "me," and not the "other." "I deserve it." "I should have it my way." "My actions should have no consequences." "If this or that or who is not what I want or to my liking, I can throw it away and find something/someone else. The "me-isms" are virtually endless.
Death! What's that? How often do we encounter death directly, much less realize that each one of us will die? So much is done to deny death in our culture that many seem to think that this life will go on and on and see no need for Christ and His offer of eternal life, much less a monastic life. It is important for all of us to remember that we will die.
Coupled with the two previous reasons is the idea of self reliance which usually makes self god or self an utter failure. The love of self sees no need for self-denial, sacrifice of any kind, and, therefore, commitment to a life well lived, centered on Christ and practicing His commandments of love (Matthew 22:37-39) to be absolutely pointless.
Adding another barrier is addiction to cell phones/computers.
It is rare for anyone to want to try the monastic life and not endeavor to bring these things with them. Their attachment to this technology is so great that when it is taken from them, they resemble someone coming off drugs.
A constant throughout the history of Christianity is the vehement opposition of parents to their child becoming a nun or monk.
When, outside of speaking about the life of a saint who lived a monastic life which is normally presented as then and there and not a relevant life to be lived here and now, was the last time you heard a member of the clergy or a church school teacher or anyone in your congregation speak about monasticism in general, much less being a vocation to which a person could aspire? If we ourselves do not present monasticism as an alternative lifestyle to all the other choices presented to our children, then who will? Often we encounter other Christians who say things like "I haven't seen a nun in habit since I was a child." They're usually sixty years old or older. OR "I didn't know nuns still existed." OR "Mommy, look at the witch." What is even sadder is that usually the parent doesn't even know what a nun is. As a whole Christians have become secularized.
For a time, each monastery undergoes a type of slow martyrdom caused by gossip which is usually propagated by members of our own faith. They justify themselves by prefacing their statements with "I think you should know." Monasteries have been judged on such bases as: "They're not like what I read." "They're not like the monastery I visited." "They don't follow the rules I think they should follow." "They can't be a real monastery because they don't have a weeping icon, a clairvoyant, a major miracle, or an incorrupt saint's body." This causes much damage and adversely effects those seriously seeking the monastery to which God is calling them. These attitudes are countered by the monastics continuing to live and grow in their monastic lives being faithful to God. (Only God is perfect. Nothing else and no one else is perfect.)
We must always remember that God is in control, and knows what He is doing. As Saint Paul said, "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
- Saints Mary and Martha Orthodox Monastery, SC