By Josh Low
Benedictine monk Dom Robert Nixon was ordained to the Diaconate on 29 July at New Norcia by Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton.
In a recent interview with The eRecord, Dom Robert opened up about his journey which led him to join religious life and later, monastic life with New Norcia’s Benedictine Community.
Born in Mount Isa, North West Queensland, Dom Robert spent his childhood years growing up in Townsville.
He said his family’s way of life, strongly rooted in the Catholic faith, established him firmly in the practice and culture of Catholicism.
An altar server and church organist, Dom Robert studied music and education; later working as a professional musician and music teacher for a number of years.
He said he had always felt an inner calling to religious life and drawn to discover more about his spirituality.
“Although I felt called towards religious life since I was young, I only worked up the resolve to follow this vocation when I was in my 30’s,” Dom Robert said.
“Looking back, I see that the hand of God was at work in my life all along. Initially, I went to the Seminary in preparation for diocesan priesthood, but I came to discern that it was actually monastic life to which I was called.”
Deeply inspired by the stories of ancient desert monks and by the writings of the monastic saints throughout the ages, Dom Robert had never experienced or witnessed real monastic life first hand until visiting New Norcia.
After seeing the dedication to prayer and the mutual support in the spiritual life, he said he was filled with a great wish to become a monk.
“I was very drawn also to the liturgy at New Norcia, with much more of a reflective pace and contemplative tone than that which I had encountered elsewhere.
“One of the things which constantly strikes me is the dedication and enthusiasm of my monastic brothers for our way of life, even those who have been monks for many decades.
“As monks, I think we truly live life to the full; each day is busy and brings its own varied gifts.
Dom Robert said the initial challenges he faced were the early morning starts to the day, having to wake up at 4.30am to prepare for Morning Prayer just past 5am. However, he added that little by little, he got accustomed to it.
From his interactions with the many guests that visit the monastery, Dom Robert also said he can see that the monastic life, though ‘enclosed’, actually fulfils an important role in the Church’s mission of evangelisation, and says it is a great honour to serve the Lord in this form of ministry.
“My Ordination to the Diaconate is a particular call and commission from God and the Church to the sacramental ministry, the service of the Word and assisting at the altar.
“I am greatly humbled by this event, but am assured of the assistance of God’s grace,” he said.
For anyone discerning religious life or the priesthood, Dom Robert says not to be afraid of taking the next step.
“‘Duc in altum’; step out into the deep. Christ walks with us at every stage in our life and is present to us in Scripture, the Sacraments and prayer, calling us to embrace our vocation courageously, with commitment, and without equivocation; whether it be marriage, single life, or religious life and/or priesthood,” he said.
“Our life becomes blessed to the extent to which we can live in conformity with the will of God.
“For those discerning a vocation to the religious life, I would say – the very fact that you are thinking about religious life is a call from God to go ahead and explore it, both by prayer and by practical steps,” Dom Robert concluded.