Being a little monastery (of four monks), St Michael’s Skete had books sitting in a prominent place, just begging to be read. I ended up skimming the Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann; mostly the parts that were previously highlighted in yellow. One non-highlighted passage, however, caught my eye, and I thought to post it for your perusal. He started out talking about how a monastic revival was either unlikely or undesirable so long as people were primarily interested in mystique, cowls, icons, escape from the world, etc, then he continued:
I would tell a candidate for monasticism roughly the following:
-Get a job, if possible the simplest one, without creativity;
-while working, pray and seek inner peace; do not get angry; do not think of yourself; accept everyone as someone sent to you, pray for them.
– After paying for a modest apartment and groceries, give your money to the poor; to individuals rather than foundations;
– always go to the same church and there try to be a real helper, not by lecturing about spiritual life or icons, not by teaching, but with a “dust rag.” Keep in mind that kind of service and be – in church matters – totally obedient to your parish priest;
– do not thrust yourself and your service on anyone, do not be sad that your talents are not being used; be helpful; serve where needed and not where you think you are needed;
– read and learn as much as you can; not only monastic literature, but broadly;
– if friends and acquaintences invite you because they are close to you – go; but not too often and within reason. Never stay more than one and a half or two hours. After that the friendliest atmosphere becomes harmful;
– dress like everybody else, but modestly, and without visible signs of a special spiritual life;
– be always simple, light, joyous. Do not teach. Avoid like the plague and “spiritual” conversations, and any religious or churchly idle talk;
– do not seek a spiritual elder or guide. If he is needed God will send him, and will send him when needed;
– having worked and served this way for 10 years – and no less – ask God whether you should continue to live this way, of whether change is needed. Wait for an alswer: it will come, the signs will be “joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.”
More on why I thought this advice interesting in a bit.