Oftentimes monastic life is stereotyped in a romantic photograph. A hooded monk, silhouetted against a late afternoon sky, stands solitary beside a tranquil pond. While those moments of peaceful solitude do present themselves, life in the community is the norm.
We live with each other day and night in close quarters. Our brothers know our faults as well as our virtues long before we recognize them ourselves. One of the monk's most challenging ascetical practices is to learn to accept his brothers as they are [Indeed, he also needs to be open to their criticism of his own faults.] Community life demands selfless love and charity, and while at times it challenges a monk to the limit, it provides the very stuff that brings about his spiritual growth. For this reason, a man who aspires to live monastic life must be able to let go of his own ideas and preferences. Sometimes the majority of his brothers may want the community to move in a certain direction different from his preference. Community life frequently calls a monk to follow Christ by giving up his own will for the sake of the common good.
"The monastery is a school of the Lord's service, where Christ is formed in the hearts of the brothers through the liturgy, the abbot's teaching, and the fraternal way of life"
(Constitutions of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, C.3:1)