Three Poems and a monastic vocation

Three Poems and a monastic vocation

Elected Silence,

Sing to me

And beat upon my whorled ear

Pipe me to pastures still and be

The music that I care to hear.                                                      

                           --Gerald Manley Hopkins


I was deeply impressed, overwhelmed and captivated by the above quotation in Thomas Merton’s book “Elected Silence” also known as Seven Storey Mountain. The idyllic, romantic and mysterious life of a hooded figure with a breviary against the background of a medieval monastery fascinated me.  I decided then that I want to be a monk.  Nevertheless, I was 17 years old and had the initial fervor of a newly baptized convert. Some years later, I spent two weeks at a Cistercian monastery in Australia. Due to family obligations, I continued to pursue a career and entered the rat race and the razzle and dazzle life of work, pleasure seeking and travels.


I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the labyrinth ways

Of my own mind and in the mist of tears

I hid from Him and under running laughter                              

                           -- Francis Thompson “The Hound of Heaven”


A chanced meeting with a Cistercian monk whom I knew previously in Australia encouraged me to “try the shoes, to find if they fit”. From Singapore to Malaysia and Thailand’s monastic centers, the discernment process began.  I visited and stayed for some periods in the Cistercian houses in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Finally, after the entire circuitous journey I came to the Abbey of New Clairvaux, Vina. This autumn I will take the Solemn Vows as a monk of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance.


Be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart

Live your question now and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answer                                                                                               

                             -- Rainer Maria Rilke


The excerpts of the above three poems have been recited and memorized by me all throughout my life.

                by Br. William Chng of Vina