Monkhood is one of the forms in which one can follow Christ in Jesus’ Church. Jesus challenges: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me!” We can read in the Acts of the Apostles that people who accepted the faith lived in a different way to others: they were of one heart and one soul, and also shared their property. This example of unity and love attracted many people to join them and, through listening to the Gospel, some of them discovered an inner vocation to move closer to God. They therefore began to seek solitude for that purpose. Many found such solitude in the desert and were therefore called hermits. Their representative is considered to be Saint Anthony the Great. Since many of these early believers were not capable of leading a self-supporting spiritual life, they sought out spiritual teachers. If there were a group of them, they would institute a community and subject themselves to a spiritual teacher, creating a monastery. The founder of these is generally considered to be Saint Pachomius.
Monasticism spread out from Egypt, Palestine and Syria to the West too, where it received its most powerful boost from Saint Benedict of Nursia. In the early 6th century he wrote the Rule upon which the present Benedictine Order is based. Living by the principle “Pray, work and read”, monks have inspired Europe with Christianity, culture, and arts and crafts throughout the centuries. Benedict’s disciples have been succeeded by many new religious orders: Carthusians, Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits and others. During each era, God calls people to consecrated life in various different ways.