Steps to Formation
The Benedictine Order places a strong emphasis on both intellectual and spiritual growth.
Here are the steps of Benedictine formation:
- Novitiate Formation: Novices are individuals who have expressed a desire to join a Benedictine monastery or community. Novitiate formation is the initial stage of their formation, typically lasting one to two years. During this time, novices are introduced to the Benedictine way of life, the Rule of St. Benedict, and engage in spiritual and theological studies. They also learn about the specific customs and practices of the particular Benedictine community they wish to join.
- Postulancy: Before entering the novitiate, some communities have a period known as postulancy, during which individuals live with the monastic community, but in a less formal way than novices. This allows them to explore the monastic life and determine if it’s the right path for them.
- Vows and Temporary Profession: After completing the novitiate and upon discernment, a novice may make temporary vows (usually for a period of three to five years) of poverty, chastity, and obedience. This stage is often called “temporary profession.” During this time, the individual continues their formation and deepens their commitment to the monastic life.
- Solemn Profession: After the period of temporary profession, a monk or nun may make solemn or perpetual vows, which signify a lifelong commitment to the Benedictine way of life and the specific community. This is a profound and permanent commitment to live according to the Rule of St. Benedict.
- Ongoing Formation: Formation doesn’t end with solemn profession; it continues throughout a Benedictine’s life. Ongoing formation involves deepening one’s understanding of the Rule of St. Benedict, growing in spirituality, and participating in the communal life of the monastery. It often includes ongoing study, reflection, and spiritual direction.
- Monastic Studies: Many Benedictine monasteries have their own educational institutions, known as abbeys or priories, where monks and nuns engage in academic studies. These studies may encompass theology, philosophy, history, and other disciplines, allowing members to contribute to both their own spiritual growth and the broader academic community.
- Liturgy and Prayer: Central to Benedictine formation is the daily cycle of liturgy and prayer. Members participate in the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) and attend daily Mass, fostering a deep connection to the liturgical life of the Church.
- Work and Hospitality: The Benedictine motto “Ora et Labora” (Prayer and Work) reflects the importance of work in the Benedictine way of life. Benedictines engage in various forms of labor within their communities, and they often practice hospitality by welcoming guests and providing a place of retreat and spiritual refreshment.
- Spiritual Direction and Mentorship: Spiritual directors and mentors play a crucial role in the formation process. They guide individuals in their spiritual journey, helping them discern their vocation and navigate the challenges of monastic life.
Benedictine formation is a lifelong process of growth in faith, community, and service, guided by the principles outlined in the Rule of St. Benedict.
It seeks to cultivate individuals who are deeply rooted in prayer, community life, and the Benedictine values of humility, stability, and obedience.