The monastic life is, above all, a search for God. Contemplation is not just looking at God; for most of us now it consists in looking for God, and if from time to time some sight of him is accorded, this will only be a glimmer granted by grace in what will always be a cloud of unknowing.
This looking for God is done through, with, and in Christ, in unity with the Holy Spirit so that we can give, within that very life of the Trinity, all honour and glory to God, the Almighty Father.
That, in brief is, I think, the essence of monastic life. It is a search for God in community.From Searching for God, by Cardinal Basil Hume
Stability in the Community
After at least five and a half years of preparation, a Benedictine nun makes a vow for life of stability in the community.
A vow is a solemn promise by the individual to God, accepted by the Church.
Stability roots the nun in this particular community.
The Monastery of Our Lady of Good Hope, now at St. Mary's Abbey Colwich, has a history going back 350 years, but a community is always subtly changing, as its members grow old and die and new ones join.
Vow of Obedience
Nuns make a vow of obedience.
Not living at their own choice or obeying their own desires and attractions, but walking by the judgment and command of another, living in monasteries of the common life, they really want to have an abbot over them. Without any doubt men like these are practising that saying of the Lord: I have come not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.
Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 5, quoting St. John’s Gospel, chapter 6
Conversion of Life
The third Benedictine vow is conversion of life, which includes celibacy: a manifestation of dedication to God with an undivided heart, and poverty, which proclaims that God is man’s only real treasure.
Pope John Paul on the "new commandment" of love:
The whole Church greatly depends on the witness of communities filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52). She wishes to hold up before the world the example of communities in which solitude is overcome through concern for one another, in which communication inspires in everyone a sense of shared responsibility, and in which wounds are healed through forgiveness, and each person's commitment to communion is strengthened. The nature of the charism in communities of this kind directs their energies, sustains their fidelity and directs the apostolic work of all towards the one mission. If the Church is to reveal her true face to today's world, she urgently needs such fraternal communities, which, by their very existence, contribute to the new evangelization, inasmuch as they disclose in a concrete way the fruitfulness of the new commandment.
From The Consecrated Life by Pope John Paul II
At St. Mary’s Abbey the nuns say this old prayer together every day:
We beseech thee, O Lord,
look graciously upon this thy family,
for whom our Lord Jesus Christ
did not hesitate to suffer betrayal
into the hands of the enemy,
and to suffer the torments of the cross,
who livest and reignest with Thee
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
world without end,