Abbey

Becoming a monk

The feeling that God is calling you to become a monk often begins with those first few encounters with a monastic community. If this desire continues to grow, then an abbey’s master of novices will join you on your path of exploration and delving into the meaning behind this calling. What begins with a few short stays in the abbey may later be followed by a postulancy and novitiate, the ultimate goal being to move from a temporary vow, to its culmination in a solemn one. This heralds the start of a monk’s life of searching and growth.

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How do I become a monk?

Anyone who wants to be a monk follows the voice of his heart. Any number of reasons may lead a person to the monastery gate. Sometimes it is the sudden urge to escape the world, or it may be a quest for more inner reflection. Whatever the case, it is a process that requires clarity and illumination. In the monastery the master of novices is responsible for the novices; he guides this process toward illumination. He helps distinguish God’s workings in the candidate’s life. This works best if a relationship of trust develops between the candidate and the master of novices.

Why become a monk? Identifying the motives

During an initial discussion the candidate formulates his request to the master of novices. He provides an open and honest account of his life. It is important that the candidate does not conceal or omit any matters that could shed light on his desire. This initial discussion is used as a basis for establishing the subsequent steps together for a potential path forward. The master of novices might advise the candidate to further clarify certain elements from the past in a therapeutic setting, or first prioritise a number of unfinished issues.

The first stays and introduction to the community

Once a sufficient level of maturity has been achieved, the master of novices invites the candidate to spend several days in the guest house. This enables the candidate to sample the daily rhythms of monastic life and gives both parties the opportunity to get to know each other.

The next step in the process is a week-long stay in the guest house. The candidate is requested to spend part of the day working with the brothers. He is also invited to eat the midday and evening meal with the brothers in the community refectory. This enables the candidate to gradually develop a relationship of trust with the community. Afterwards the candidate may stay in the guest house for longer periods. During this time – usually one, two or three weeks – he is invited to participate in the monastic life of work and prayer. During the stay he has several discussions with the master of novices.

Finally there is a point in the process when the candidate is asked to spend some time in the novitiate. This may involve several periods or one long stretch lasting a few weeks. If the desire to become a monk continues to mature and grow, and if the candidate actually possesses sufficient emotional and psychological maturity, a commencement date is established.

Postulancy

The postulancy begins the day the candidate enters the monastery. This is a period of initiation and of gradually becoming familiar with Cistercian life. Prayer, work, matins or Liturgy of the Hours and lectio divina (meditative reading) all play a key role.
The postulant can count on the support of the master of novices for overcoming the difficulties inherent to this period. Distancing oneself physically and emotionally from activities and relationships that were previously an important part of one’s life is demanding.
The postulancy generally lasts for six months. At the end of this period of settling in and further purification of the desire to become a monk, there follows a discussion to evaluate the situation. If the candidate’s path still conforms to the narrow path of a monk’s life, he receives his habit, belt and choir robe. This marks the ceremony of taking the habit, and signifies the beginning of the novitiate.

Novitiate

The novitiate is a time of personal assimilation into the Cistercian life. Through prayer, asceticism, an increase in self-knowledge and participation in the community life novices acquire a deeper personal experience of the Cistercian way of life. The novices receive daily lessons and have weekly discussions with the master of novices. The study programme includes the following subjects: the Rule of Saint Benedict, the liturgy, the constitutions of the Order, the history of the Cistercians, the Holy Scriptures, the Desert Fathers, and so on. The novitiate lasts for two years.

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Temporary vows

At the end of the novitiate the novice requests to expressly commit to the community in the taking of temporary vows. He accepts this commitment for three years. These three years of temporary profession can be extended by a maximum of six years. By taking his temporary vows the new brother demonstrates that he wants to continue to grow in his life as a monk. A new phase begins. He receives new responsibilities in the community and he leaves the novitiate. He may choose to deepen his knowledge of theology.

Solemn vows

After a minimum of three years in a temporary profession, the brother may ask the abbot to be solemnly professed. This means he definitively commits himself to the community, city, and universal church. This solemn profession is not the end of the training process, but the beginning. Becoming a monk is a lifelong process of growth.

“For as we advance in the religious life of a monk and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God’s commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love.”

from the prologue to the Rule for Monks

For those who are interested

The first step towards obtaining an interview starts with a letter. In the letter you explain your motivation and include a detailed account of your life.

Send the letter to:
Abbey of Our Lady of Refuge
To the attention of the master of novices
Rucphenseweg 38
4882 KC Klein Zundert

Or email everything to:
info@abdijmariatoevlucht.nl