This painting by Caravaggio of the Call of St Matthew reflects something of the way Jesus approaches us all. He enters into our lives quite unexpectedly and we feel compelled to move towards him, to the light, to follow in his way. We assess the things that we hold onto that keep us from following, but ultimately his call compels us because he shows us a better way, a life-giving way, a way that is true to God, and ultimately truer to ourselves. Despite our own human frailty and our hesitancy, he gives us the grace to get up and move towards the light. He calls us to open up and be transformed by that light.

The Beginnings of the Monastic Life

Christ's call has reached out to men and women in every age. St Benedict says that Christ calls out to us every day. Everyone is called to follow the way of holiness, but some have heard, and continue to hear that call to follow him in the particular way of the monastic life.The origins of the monastic tradition are to be found in Egypt, Syria and Palestine, where men and women went out into the desert. Soon people gathered around such charismatic figures as St Anthony the Great. These became spiritual fathers, abbas, teachers and guides to those seeking to follow more closely the way of Christ.
Soon large monasteries were found in these desert places and it is said that "the desert became a city". St Pachomius founded cenobitic or community-type monasticism, inspired by the early Christian community of Jerusalem described in the Acts of the Apostles. Monasticism had soon caught the imagination of the known world. It spread and flourished inspired by the likes of St Basil the Great, St Augustine of Hippo and John Cassian. In Europe the chief inspiration came from St Benedict, often called the Father of Western Monasticism.