The development of an individual as a monk is a lifelong process. All monks, even those who have been living in a monastery for decades, are undergoing formation as they strive to grow and transform themselves in seeking God daily .
For a person just starting along the path of monastic life there are distinct steps.
Individuals exploring the possibility of a vocation to monastic life come to the monastery for short retreats or visits of a few days to get a sense of the place and what monastic life is like. It might take numerous visits and periods of reflection and the guidance of a vocation director for someone to decide whether a monastic life is something they wish to pursue.
Should a person decide that he would like to formally pursue the monastic life he may become a postulant with the approval of the Abbot. During this time regular meetings with a formation director will begin as one continues to discern his vocation. After a period of time if the postulant and his director feel that he is ready to begin formal training as a monk the monastic community will be asked to approve his entrance to the Novitiate.
The novitiate begins with a brief entrance rite held in the abbey chapel. While the novice is under no formal commitment, it is expected that he will live a life of obedience to the Abbot. The novitiate usually will last for one year. During this year the novice works at assigned tasks and meets with various monks for formal training and instruction on monastic life. If at the end of the novitiate the novice is found suitable for monastic life the monastic community will take a formal vote on the individual’s request to take vows.
Profession of simple vows is a formal three-year commitment to the monastic vows of obedience, stability and conversatio morum. The simply professed monk lives the monastic life in the full in the same way as any other monk in the community.
After he has successfully living the monastic life as a simply professed monk, the monastic community votes on his admittance to Solemn Vows as a lifetime commitment to monastic life.
The Rule of Saint Benedict
When he is to be received, he comes before the whole community in the oratory and promises stability, fidelity to monastic life, and obedience.
RB 1980 58:17
A Novice is clothed with a monastic scapular
during the entrance rite.