At 6 PM Eastern Time today, February 20, 2012, “Ask A Monk” goes live for the first time. From his monastery Brother Sebastian will be using chat software to provide spiritual advice to anyone who visits the Catholic Exchange homepage and clicks on the “Ask A Monk” chat button.
“Brother Sebastian” is the collective name we have given to a small group of cloistered Benedictines who will be staffing this service. They have asked that their monastery and the individuals involved remain anonymous in order to follow their Rule’s counsel of humility. They are enthusiastic about extending spiritual counsel to the laity in this new way. We can hardly thank them enough. Pray that God will bless their community in a new way for their service.
The software facilitating “Ask A Monk” comes from Netop. They are a major provider of customer service software that enables users to chat with representatives of pharmacies, financial institutions, car dealerships, etc. Their people, especially James Boughal and Sam Heiney, were delighted that their product would be put to such an innovative use, and bent over backwards to help us. Catholic Exchange owes them tremendous thanks as well.
Putting “Ask A Monk” into operation is something Catholic Exchange has wanted to do for the last couple of years. It’s part of turning an online publication into a multifaceted tool of evangelization. Beyond providing information, the internet can connect people and enable them to act in concert. It can be used for the Kingdom of God, not only virtually but in the real world. We have so many opportunities in this way—“Ask A Monk” is a sign of things to come.
As so many Catholic lay people have through the ages, I have benefited greatly from the retreats I have spent in monasteries, the spiritual counsel I have received there, and what I have learned from monastic writers. I have longed to open up these riches to busy people, who often live far away from the spiritual powerhouses that are monasteries. To see “Ask A Monk” come on line is such a happy thing, and I thank God for the privilege of being part of it.
“Ask A Monk” works in two ways—via live chat and email. When Brother Sebastian is not online, you can ALWAYS send him an email. He will answer your emails just as soon as possible. You just go to the same place on the Catholic Exchange homepage, click on the “Ask A Monk” button, and fill out the form with your email message.
Monday through Friday, you can chat live with Brother Sebastian from 6:00 – 6:30 PM Easter Time. On the weekends, the hours will be extended. Live chat will be available on Saturday and Sunday from 3:00 – 5:00 PM Eastern Time.
As I am posting this, we are a couple hours away from the official live opening. Wherever you are, whatever spiritual or other problems you may facing, you can always communicate with a monk. So, “Ask A Monk.”