The Church’s Code of Canon Law, reflecting on the consecrated life, observes, “[religious life] means separation from the life of the sinful world while at the same time ministering in and to the same sinful world” (comment on Canon 607). This ministry takes many forms, including the witness of those who pray for the world’s salvation within a monastery.
The words “monk” and “monastery” come from the Greek word “monos,” which means “single.” Monks originally withdrew from society to live by themselves, but later gathered together into monasteries, where, as today, their common life supports the individual, contemplative exercises that characterize the monastic vocation.
Because a monk is called to cultivate an intensely private, inner spiritual life, members of monastic communities do not ordinarily — like members of many other religious communities — undertake public, parochial ministries that require priestly ordination. Thus the question of a monk’s ordination is determined by the custom of a particular monastery.
In some monasteries, the monk himself is encouraged to discern whether the Holy Spirit is calling him to priesthood; in others, the community chooses brothers to undergo priestly formation when the sacramental needs of the monastic community demand additional priests among the community’s members.