Urban Monks

Fr. Greg asked in one of his comments for my musings on urban monasticism. I want to thank Fr. Greg for getting me back on message.
Having monks in the Orthodox Church is a necessary part of who we are. However monasticism from the old world will not work here in the new world. We do not need monks who live out in the middle of nowhere we need monks to live in and about the people. We need monks that live in the bad parts of town and minister to the peoples needs. This is not a new idea, I only have to point to Dorothy Day and the early days of the Catholic Worker Movement in the US. This is what Orthodoxy needs we need urban monks.
I have this vision of a monastery in a three decker in the middle of the city where the monks will be advocates for new immigrants and teach English and help with citizenship classes and the like. We need monks who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. Who will see Jesus in the poor and the desolate, but who are also not afraid to pick up the phone and call politicians and advocate for justice for the poor and disadvantage. This is what I meant a few posts back about a preferential option for the poor.
How will these monks support themselves. Wait, here is a radical idea, they get jobs and work in the community. Perhaps teaching or hospital ministry would be part of this monastery also. We should not live off of the parishes and expect them to support us in our ministry. Monasteries should be able to support themselves.
Another thing that Orthodox monks could provide, but in a different place than the urban ones, would be retreat space. Our monasteries should be houses of hospitality. St. Benedict writes of this in his rule for monasteries.
These are just some random thoughts, and I look forward to your comments.


  1. how can any one cosider themselves to be religious if the are not willing to be with people in need. how sad it is for some one to lock themselves up in a monistary and pray but never know the joy of helping others (and there most certainly is a joy in touching other peoples lives).

  2. Preach it brother!! Sorry Fr. Just getting carried away. Good stuff here. As a previous member of the Romanc Catholic Church I know of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement quite well, and still have many of her books. Although not Orthodox, the is a great community of Friars in NY called the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal who have a huge street ministry, working in the poorest sections of town. I have to agree with you Father we need more monastics, as well as lay people that are willing to go out and serve.

  3. You are exactly correct. We need these guys in the Orthodox Church. Well atleast we need their spirit. We need guys like this! This is what I am trying to get at with Urban Monks. I even like what they wear!

  4. Ahhh, if Francis were to be born a few hundred years earlier. Back when I lived in NY and was under vows myself I spent some time with these guys. This was before I was Orthodox. But the work they do is amazing, and is very well suited for the American Culture. But they are not liberal in any sense, they are very pious and take their faith seriously, but do so with a very generous heart.

  5. A friend in Boston (who attends an Antiochian Parish) was looking to start an Order of Monks based on his Anglican Monastic Experience. The idea was much like what Fr Peter was talking about: working in clinics, etc. Although it would be dispersed – not housed in one place.

    Having known his order when he and I both were Episcopalians, I think Fr Peter and my friend should talk.

  6. Hi Gents,

    We are a group called the Light Project based in Chester in England. We train people in evangelism.

    I have been thinking over the idea of postmodern monasticism and ‘urban monks’ as we try to demonstrate and tell the gospel in relevant ways in our city.

    I would be interested to see where you go with the idea.

    Warm regards,

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