If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me (Matt. 19:21).

According to his Life, when St. Antony (d. 356) heard these words from the Gospel, he sold what he owned and left for the desert to devote his entire life to Christ. Throughout the history of the Church countless men and women, like St. Antony, have felt called to a life totally devoted to God, renouncing the desire for worldly possessions and embracing a life of celibacy, prayer, and ascetic struggle.

By example and through wise counsel, these women and men, whether alone or in community, have helped to sustain the Body of Christ and guide the faithful, especially during times of adversity. They have been a stabilizing force in the Church, but at the same time an innovative and even radical voice, calling us to live the Gospel message.

But what do they have to say to society and the Church in the 21st century? How does one live a monastic life in these times? Is it a choice or a calling? What does monasticism look like in a traditionally non-Orthodox country?

In this last in the series dedicated to the theme, "Faith and Community," we will begin to explore some of these questions as we look at monasticism, a particular type of church community. In this issue we will focus on women’s monasticism in the United States and on some American women who have chosen to live the monastic life in Greece and Romania.