The Meaning of the Monastic Life


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By Louis Bouyer

In this day and age, monks are rare and most monasteries are in ruins. Surely, then, the meaning of the “monastic life” is a moot point. But nothing could be further from the truth, as Louis Bouyer makes abundantly clear. Wherever and whenever there are Christians, there also is the germ of the monastic life. For the monastic vocation is in essence the vocation of the baptized taken “to the farthest limits of its irresistible demands.” In light of the “search for God” as the central meaning of a monk’s vocation, Bouyer studies the connections between the angelic and monastic lives; the paramount necessity of death to self and to the world for communion with God; the distinct relationships between the monk and the Persons of the Holy Trinity; and the concrete means by which one lives out the monastic vocation: prayer and penance, manual and intellectual labor, lectio divina and the Holy Mass—ora et labora.

Monastic life is a search for God, for God such as he reveals himself to us, that is, he himself seeking us, in his Word, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Louis Bouyer)

“If anyone will be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” For the monk, in Bouyer’s daunting description, this universal call to holiness is “so urgent that there can be no question of postponing his response to it.… He does not wait for the figure of this world to pass away; he anticipates, abandoning everything in this world, in order to meet God here and now.”


Louis Bouyer (1913–2004) was a member of the French Oratory and one of the most respected and visionary Catholic scholars and theologians of his time. Formerly a Lutheran minister, he entered the Catholic Church in 1939. Bouyer wrote over fifty works, including The Bible and the Gospel, Christian Initiation, and The Paschal Mystery.

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Paperback: 258pp.

ISBN: 978-1685952518