Session 6: Monasticism: The Call to a Radical Life

Objectives: By the end of this session students should be able to . . .
1. name monasticism as a vocation to which they might be called
2. define the monastic vocation as being an example of prayer, diligence, obedience, and hospitality
3. list three reasons someone might want to become a monastic
4. list two or three saints that were monastics

Useful Texts:
- Life of St. Anthony the Great found on pages 93-95 in Heroes for Truth, Vol. 1 by Sophie Koulomzin, available from OCPC.
- Lives of SS Sabas and Theodosius p. 42 of Great Monks of the Desert, Book 8 of the Saints for All Ages series available from OCPC.
- Life of St. Anthony of the Caves of Kiev p. 11 of Founders of Russian Monasticism Book 7 of the Saints for All Ages series available from OCPC.

Note to Leader:
If there is a men's or women's monastery within driving distance, take the time to make an excursion there. Call ahead and ask if one or two of the monastics would be willing to talk about their vocation with your group. You may be able to attend one of their services or help them with a project at the monastery. This type of contact and experience is far more influential than any "class."
If this is difficult there may be a monastic in your area that would be willing to come to your parish or camp to speak with your group. Ask your parish priest about who he would recommend.

A: Younger Children (Objectives 1, 2 & 3)
Presentation: Role Models
For this activity you will need: enough scissors for everyone, glue, lots of different types of magazines and newspapers, blank white paper and crayons, and a very large piece of poster board with ROLE MODELS IN OUR WORLD written on it somewhere.
Tell participants to look through all the newspapers and magazines and cut out anyone who could be a role model: people we can look to in order to know how to live our lives. They can draw pictures of people they can't find pictures of.
When they have cut out all their figures have them compile them on the poster board to make a collage.
Review what they put on the board, asking how each person is a role model and how some might not always be the best people to look to as an example. Ask participants if they had trouble picking out role models and why.
Tell participants, "In the Church we have a lot of role models. Who do you think some of these people are?" [Priests, bishops, deacons, saints, monastics.] You may need to direct this discussion by asking for people who are no longer alive who are examples for us (saints), and for people who are still alive. You can also point out that many of our saints were monastics. If the participants have no experience with monasticism or monastics you may have to say "monks and nuns are also role models for us."
Ask, "Why do you think monks and nuns are good examples for us? [They pray all the time, they love God more than anything else, they fast, they go to Church a lot, they are nice to people when the come to visit them, etc.]
Say, "Monks and nuns are people who have dedicated their whole life from morning till night to God. Many times we don't think of them as role models, but they constantly remind us without saying a word that we need to make God more important in our lives."

Discussion: Monasticism - The Life of Prayer
Say, "Monks and nuns always have something around their wrist. Since the bishop is a monastic he has one too. What is it? [Prayer rope.] Why do you think that all monastics have these? [To remember to always pray to God.]"
St. Paul wrote that all Christians are supposed to pray without ceasing. Monastics are people who take this very seriously. They try to pray at every moment of the day: when they work, eat, even when they are just walking from here to there. On their prayer rope are little knots and as they walk they touch one of the knots and say, 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.' Let's say that together a few times." Say the prayer together about four or five times.
Say, "Monastics also lead a life of prayer by the way they behave and what they do."
· What are some ways we can behave to live a life of prayer?
· What are some things we can do?
· Have you ever seen someone who looked like a prayerful person?
· Why did you think they were "prayerful"?

Activity: Make Prayer Ropes (see attached illustration)
Say, "While all monastics carry prayer ropes, you don't have to be a monk or a nun to carry a prayer rope. Today we're going to make prayer ropes for ourselves using beads instead of knots."
Each participant needs about 40 plastic beads (you can use more to make them bigger if you wish) and a strong piece of string or thin piece of yarn. The color of the beads can vary but should be appropriate. Tape the edges of the string or yarn to make it easier to thread the beads. DO NOT TIE A KNOT ON ONE END OF THE STRING!
Thread 33 beads on the string and then tie the ends together a couple of times. To make the cross at the end thread both ends through 3 beads. Then thread each end through a separate bead. These beads become the horizontal bar of the cross. After you thread one end thru one bead, go back and put the thread thru the top of third bead you double threaded. The third bead will be in the center. Repeat for the other side. When you have done this the third bead that was double threaded should have a bead on either side of it and will have been threaded four times. For this reason it is important not to use very thick thread or yarn. Then double thread two more beads to finish of the cross and tie of the end a number of times to ensure that the beads will not come off.
When everyone has finished ask your parish priest to bless them. You will probably want to also discuss appropriate and inappropriate ways of handling them. For example, they are not bracelets or toys to be twirled on the finger, etc..

B: Pre-teens and Teens (Objectives 1, 2, 4)
Write the words "A Radical Life" on a large piece on newsprint or chalkboard. Ask participants to write down everything they think of when they see those words. You will probably want to point out that "radical" can mean both positive and negative things to different people.
Say, "People who live radical lives don't go along with the norm. Either they choose to do something really positive or really negative. Regardless, it is 'radically' different than the way most people live."
Once all ideas are exhausted ask, "What do you think is the most radical life someone can live." If responses tend toward the negative, ask, "What is the most radical positive life someone can live?"
Now brainstorm the words monastic, monk, and nun. Ask, "How does the life of a monastic compare with what we often consider 'normal everyday life.' How does it differ? Are there ways that their life and our life are similar?"

Discussion on Ephesians 6:10-17 and the Clothing of a Monastic
Write the notation on a large piece of newsprint or chalkboard; somewhere visible. Say, "This is the scripture that is read when a person takes monastic vows."
Ask one of the participants to read the scripture.
Discuss the following questions:
· What are the pieces of armor that are mentioned in the reading?
· What does each piece of armor refer to?
· Why do you think monasticism is referred to as the angelic life? What do angels do that monastics do also. [Both spend all their time praying to and glorifying God.]

When a person is tonsured a monastic they are given special clothing to wear. In addition, they are given a prayer rope and a copy of the Bible. As each piece of clothing is given to them it is compared to a certain piece of armor or other quote from the Bible. Based upon what you know about monasticism and the scripture reading, what do you think a monk wears? [the following are the garments with the prayer that are attached to each garment: cassock - garment of gladness, belt - power of truth, riassa - robe of incorruptibility and modesty, mantia (cape) - angelic habit, cap and veil - helmet of hope for salvation, sandals or shoes - preparation of the Gospel in peace, prayer rope and scripture - the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.]

Activity: A Day in the Life of a Monastic
Divide participants into groups of three or four. Give each group copies of the lives of the saints included above. (You may wish to add others.) After reading the lives of the saints, have each group write what a monastic might write for one day in their journal.
How does this differ from what you would write for a day in your journal?
How is it similar?

Teen Journal Reflection:
Take a couple minutes to picture yourself as a monk or a nun. Answer the following: What would be the real joys of being a monastic?
What would be really hard about being a monastic?
Do you think you might consider becoming a monk or nun? Why or why not?

Session Conclusion

God calls all of us to lead of life of prayer, productive work, kindness to others, and obedience to people in authority like our parents, priest, and teachers. However, some people have a special call from God to leave the normal activities of the world and become real heroes of Christian living striving to always put God first in their lives. When we see or meet a monk or nun, we should remember that they are someone who chose God over having a family, career, and all the things that we consider "normal." There are many Orthodox monastics right here in North America. Who knows, God may be calling you to be one of them.