Monastic Life in the World


People tend to be curious when they meet me for the first time.

Some people are surprised to learn I live in Los Angeles and am married. Some people are confused by my spiritual journey and my background. I tend not to meet their expectations about who a monk will be.

Some people are surprised that I actually know monks and spend time at a hermitage. They think of monks as people who lived a long time ago. People often have some serious questions about why anyone would want to become a monk.

I am a lay person connected to a monastic community. My community is the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California. New Camaldoli is a Benedictine community, part of a Roman Catholic order called the Camaldolese.

It may sound ironic to be a community of hermits, but that is just the beginning. There are 24 monks living at New Camaldoli, and around 700 lay people like me in the outside world.

We are called Oblates. The word “oblate” comes from Latin, French, and Middle English. Oblate refers to something offered, particularly to God. Oblates were originally children offered by their families to be raised and educated by monks. Today, we offer ourselves to follow monastic life and translate its lessons into everyday life.

I try to spend at least some time each year at the hermitage in Big Sur, and to practice monastic values at home. My life is not as well organized as the monks’ lives are, and more flexible. I practice regular prayer and reflection, sacred reading and service.

My practices teach me lessons I share with others.

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly recently broadcast a brief story about New Camaldoli, monks and oblates:

What values do you practice in your everyday life?

To whom do you offer yourself?