The process of becoming a full member of the community normally takes 4½ to 5 years.
Becoming a postulant
After visiting the monastery over a period of time, the aspiring monk will be received as a postulant. The postulancy will normally last from three months to a year, depending on the person’s particular needs. During this time, the postulant acclimatises himself to the monastic rhythm of life and the monastic routine. At the end of the postulancy, the Abbot clothes the candidate in the monastic habit, and he enters the ‘novitiate’.
The novitiate lasts one year. During this time the novice will discern, under the direction of the novice master and Abbot, whether he is being called by God to live the monastic way of life in this particular monastery. Manual work, and reflective reading and discussion of the Rule, scripture, liturgy and monastic history will take up much of his time. If the community and the novice decide at the end of the year that he should continue in the monastic way of life, he will take temporary vows for three years, and enter the ‘juniorate’.
During this time the junior monk will deepen his monastic studies, paying particular attention to the Bible, the writings of the Church Fathers and monastic literature. He may also begin studying for a degree in philosophy and/or theology. As Michael Casey reminds us, monastic studies aims “to contribute to a more complete living of the Gospel”. (The Art of Winning Souls, p. 154). This lifelong formation seeks to enable the monk to deepen his understanding and love of the monastic way of life and to live it with both mind and heart under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
When the juniorate is complete, the Abbot with the consent of the Chapter (all of the monks in solemn or final vows) may admit the junior to solemn or final profession, including taking the vows.